Koh Kong: The Cambodian Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced on March 2, 2021, that last week, five Royal Turtles (*Southern River Terrapin Batagur affinis) laid a total of 71 eggs on an artificial beach in a reptile conservation center in Koh Kong province.
Som Sitha, director of the Koh Kong and Mekong Conservation Project of the Cambodian Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), said: “This is the first time that turtles raised in the center have spawned since (arriving in) 2006. The team will discuss whether to build an artificial nest to incubate these eggs or leave them to hatch in their original state.”
“This is an exciting and important story that is unbelievably rare,” said Steven G. Platt, WCS Southeast Asia’s expert on wildlife and horticulture (it is) is a conservation goal for the restoration of the endangered species in Cambodia. “We expect the project to be able to promote large-scale breeding of this species in the center and to be able to return it to its natural habitat.”
Dr Sonja Luz, Deputy Director of Conservation, Research and Veterinary Medicine of the Singapore Wildlife Park (WRS), said: “Singapore Wildlife Park (WRS) is excited to contribute to this great goal. Another important (step) to preserve this rare species of turtle. 2021 is a great start for the royal turtle after we released 10 of these turtles back into the wild in late January. It is encouraging for us to see our partners succeed in spite of the global epidemic threat, and we rejoice and celebrate these achievements together. This is a testament to the dedication of our stakeholders in continuing conservation efforts to protect this species.”
Mr. Ouk Vibol, Director of the Department of Fisheries Conservation, said, “We are very proud of this great result. The Fisheries Administration would like to encourage and fully support this research to achieve its goals in the future, and we hope that this endangered turtle will have a long life for future generations.”
WCS has been working with the Fisheries Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries since 2000 to conserve this species of turtle (scientifically known as Batagur affinis) in Cambodia. After rediscovering this species in 2000 in the Sre Sre Ambel canal system in southwestern Cambodia, WCS, in collaboration with the Fisheries Administration, developed a nest protection program by recruiting former turtle egg collectors. In 2006, WCS established a turtle breeding center in Sre Ambel district, Koh Kong province, to store baby turtles collected from the beach. Later in 2016, this center was relocated to Mondul Seima district, Koh Kong province, about 15 km away. From Khemarak Phoumin.
Every year, baby turtles hatched on the beach in the Sre Ambel canal system are collected by the nest protection team and sent to the Koh Kong Provincial Reptile Conservation Center to be cared for until they reach adulthood before being released into their natural habitat. Singapore Wildlife Park is one of the major donors to the project.
Currently, the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Center has 192 royal turtles. A total of 96 juvenile turtles have been released back into the wild since 2015, and the team plans to release another 50 by the end of 2021. The juvenile turtles in the center are reared in four breeding ponds. The young turtles were raised in large plastic tanks before being transferred to the breeding pond. SWIFT
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