October 31, 2016
- as seen by -Mengey Eng
The Royal Turtle, also known as southern river terrapin (Batagur affinis), is one of the world’s most endangered freshwater turtles and is listed on the IUCN Red List as “critically endangered”.
It was believed extinct in Cambodia until 2000 when a small population was re-discovered by the Fisheries Administration (FiA) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in the Sre Ambel River. A community-based protection program was implemented in Sre Ambel and employs former egg collectors to search for and protect nests, instead of harvesting the eggs. Hatchlings from protected nests are then taken into captivity where they are raised until several years old at Sre Ambel district of Koh Kong province.
The royal turtle is now facing threats to its very survival due to habitat loss caused by increased sand dredging, illegal clearance of flooded forest, and illegal fishing. A recent increase in disturbance from dredging along the Sre Ambel River in Koh Kong Province – the only place where the species is still found in Cambodia – is putting this species at great risk.
On September 13, 2016, WCS, in partnership with the FiA, announced that it is transferring 206 of these national reptiles of Cambodia to a newly built breeding and conservation center in Mondol Seima district of Koh Kong province. The new facility will be named the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre.