Cambodia Discovers Nest of Critically Endangered 'Royal Turtles'
Wildlife experts in Cambodia have discovered a nest with 16 eggs built by the nearly extinct “royal turtle”, in the first such discovery this year, the non-profit Wildlife Conservation (WCS) Society said on Monday.
The royal turtle, known also as the southern river terrapin, was designated as Cambodia’s national reptile in 2005. It was believed to be extinct until it was rediscovered in the river in 2000. Only three nests have been found in the past two years.
“Despite success after the species was re-discovered in 2000, the royal turtle is still at high risk of extinction,” said Som Sitha, WCS’s technical adviser.
As reported in Reuters, it is one of the world’s 25 most endangered freshwater turtles.
So named because it is thought that only members of the royal family were allowed to eat the eggs in the past, WCS says the royal turtle is currently threatened by clearance of flooded forests, illegal fishing and the illicit wildlife trade.
Wildlife rangers in the southwestern province of Koh Kong, where the eggs were discovered along a river by villagers and conservationists, including the WCS, are guarding them until they hatch, the conservation group said in a statement.
Fisheries official In Hul, a WCS project coordinator, said the reptile’s breeding period spans from January to March.
“If we find a nest, we will work with the local community to protect it until the eggs hatch and then bring the hatchlings to Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Center where they will be cared for until they are mature and can be released back to the wild,” Hul said to The Phnom Penh Post.
Currently there’s no estimate of the population of royal turtles, but a recent count of females in the Sre Ambel river system found fewer than 10, according WCS’s Mengey.