Sre Ambel, Koh Kong Province (May 10, 2017) – After being protected for three months, nine new Cambodian Royal Turtles have successfully hatched and were taken to Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre, Koh Kong Province for feeding, raising, and possibly breeding in the future.
The Royal Turtle, also known as the southern river terrapin (Batagur affinis), is one of the world’s most endangered freshwater turtles and is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The species is Cambodia’s national reptile.
In February 2017, one nest of the turtles with 14 eggs was found by a villager along the Kaong River, the only place the species is still found in Cambodia. The Royal Turtle Conservation Team from the Fisheries Administration (FiA) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) went to check the nest and built a fence to protect the eggs. In addition, they hired a villager to guard the nest until the eggs hatched.
“I am delighted to see those eggs have successfully hatched, and that the hatchlings have been taken to the conservation center in Koh Kong Province. I am proud of the result, and especially to be part of conserving Cambodia’s Royal Turtles from extinction,” said Long Sman, who guarded the Royal Turtle nest for three months.
The turtle was believed extinct in Cambodia until 2000 when a small population was re-discovered by FiA and WCS in the Sre Ambel River. A community-based protection program was implemented in Sre Ambel which employs former egg collectors to search for and protect nests, instead of harvesting the eggs.
“There are only a few Royal Turtles left in the wild, so numbers of their nests are low. This year, the conservation team found only one nest, as compared to two nests found in 2016 and three nests in 2015,” said Som Sitha, WCS’s Technical Advisor to the Sre Ambel Conservation Project.
“This is a big concern for Royal Turtle conservation. If sand dredging, illegal clearance of flooded forests, and illegal fishing continues, then our national reptile species faces a high risk of extinction,” he added.
This project is implemented in partnership with Wildlife Reserves Singapore.
· Download images of Royal Turtle hatchlings: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/932m6vw9yy40hsb/AAC7soHPwPUhH7OB8VUzze02a?dl=0
· Download video of Royal Turtle hatchlings:
Notes to Editor:
· In September 2016, WCS in partnership with the Fisheries Administration (FiA) transferred 206 Royal Turtles to Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre.
· In 2015, WCS and FiA released 21 individuals fitted with transmitters that are currently being monitored. Three of the fitted animals recently travelled down the Sre Ambel River, along the coast and up another river system ending up over 97km from where they were released.
WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org. Follow on Twitter: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.