The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia reports a record-breaking 122 Royal Turtle hatchlings at the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre (KKRCC) during the 2023 breeding season.
This is an extraordinary achievement for conservation efforts, underlined the WCS Cambodia in a press release issued this morning.
This year, it pointed out, KKRCC collected 21 nests with a total of 272 eggs. From these, 122 Royal Turtles successfully hatched, a significant increase from the previous year, which saw nine nests and 81 eggs produce 31 hatchlings.
"This is a true conservation success story," said Christopher Poyser, KKRCC Manager. "The substantial increase in hatchlings is a testament to our hard work and commitment to conserving this critically endangered species. We are optimistic about next year’s breeding season and expect the number of hatchlings to continue to increase."
The Royal Turtle, scientifically known as the Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis), is listed on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered and is among the world's 25 most endangered freshwater turtles and tortoises. In 2005, it was designated as Cambodia's National Reptile by a Royal Decree, further highlighting the importance of its conservation.
According to press release, the primary threats to the Royal Turtle include targeted hunting, incidental capture in fishing gear for local consumption and international trade, and destruction of its nesting habitat through sand extraction, deforestation, and land grabbing.
To combat these threats, WCS Cambodia, in long-term partnership with the Fisheries Administration (FiA) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and supported by Mandai Nature and Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), implements various conservation interventions. These efforts aim to restore the wild populations of Royal Turtles through both in-situ and ex-situ conservation methods and monitored releases. Additionally, WCS develops opportunities for local communities to participate in the conservation of the river system.
“We are very proud to learn that many hatchlings hatched from the centre this year. This is a new hope for restoring the species in Cambodia. We strongly encourage and support the continuation of this captive breeding programme to restore this species in the future, and we hope this species will survive for our next generation. For the field programme, I strongly hope that local people and authorities work closely together to protect the critical habitat for this species," said Mr. Ouk Vibol, Director of the Fisheries Conservation Department.
KKRCC currently holds 281 Royal Turtles, including 50 adults for breeding and 231 sub-adults, juveniles, and hatchlings. Since 2015, WCS Cambodia has reintroduced 166 young adult Royal Turtles into the wild in Sre Ambel, contributing further to the conservation of this critical species.
Source: Agence Kampuchea Presse