August 7, 2017
Hope for Frog-faced Softshell Turtles
- as seen by -Mengey Eng
The Asian giant softshell turtle (Pelochelys cantorii) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as globally endangered. It was thought extinct in the Cambodian portion of the Mekong River until its rediscovery in 2007 in a 30 mile stretch of the river between Kratie and Stung Treng Provinces.
Recently, 150 endangered Asian giant softshell turtle hatchlings were released back into their natural habitat along the Mekong River. The hatchlings are part of a community protection program designed to increase the wild population of the species. They had been collected from nests that were guarded by local communities.
The release is part of a project that has been ongoing since 2007, formerly run by Conservation International, and now, by the Wildlife Conservation Society in collaboration with the Fisheries Administration and the Turtle Survival Alliance. The community-based protection program encourages the participation of local communities living in Kratie and Stung Treng Provinces by hiring former nest collectors to search for and protect nests instead of harvesting the eggs. Since 2007, 378 nests have been protected and 8,528 hatchlings released.
Kong Theary, 35, former egg collector and now ranger, said he is delighted to see those hatchlings back to the wild. “I am proud of working to conserve this turtle, and I hope future generations will be able to see this species.”