July 30, 2019
Batagur Call Home
- as seen by -Paul P. Calle
The Southern River terrapin (Batagur affinis) is in decline across Southeast Asia and classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as one of the world’s 25 most endangered turtles. The Cambodia population was thought to be extinct until the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Cambodia Program discovered a remnant wild population in 2001. The Cambodia subspecies (Batagur affinis edwardmolli) is also referred to as the royal turtle in Cambodia because historically only the Cambodian royal family could eat its eggs. The turtle conservation efforts with our partners the Turtle Survival Alliance and Wildlife Reserves Singapore include habitat preservation (especially of the nesting beaches under assault by sand mining for construction), nest protection, and local community education and outreach about the species and the need to protect the remaining few left in Cambodia. We began a headstarting program to augment these efforts that consists of recovering babies from the nests when they hatch, raising the young turtles to safeguard them during their most vulnerable time of life, and then releasing them back into their native rivers when they have grown to their adult size.
As part of the release program, WCS’s Zoological Health Program performs health screening of the release candidates to ensure that they are healthy, fit for survival in the wild, and don’t harbor any infectious diseases that could pose a risk for the last surviving wild terrapins. This royal turtle has passed its health assessment and an acoustic transmitter was attached to its shell so it can be tracked to learn more about the travels, movements, habitat use, and survivorship of this terrapin throughout Cambodia’s wild rivers.