The European Union (EU), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and the Fisheries Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, today released 51 critically endangered Royal Turtles into the Sre Ambel River system in Chamkar Luong commune, Kampong Seila district of Preah Sihanouk province.

All the 51 Royal Turtles, globally known as Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis), were collected immediately after emerging from their nests along the Sre Ambel River and Kampong Leu River in Koh Kong and Preah Sihanouk provinces from 2006 to 2015 and sent to Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Center in Tuol Korki village, Tuol Korki commune of Mondul Seima district, where they have been cared for and prepared for a life in the wild, according to Som Sitha, WCS Landscape Project Manager.

The turtles, 31 females and 20 males, range in age from 6 to 15 years-old. Each turtle was implanted with a microchip, and an acoustic transmitter was attached to their shell. These measures will allow the conservation team to monitor each individual and track their movements through the river system.

“We highly appreciate the participation of local authorities, community and WCS team who have been working together to conserve critically endangered turtles so that they can persist in the natural water bodies,” said H.E. Poum Sotha, Delegate of the Royal Government of Cambodia, Director General of Fisheries Conservation. “All stakeholders should continue their efforts to conserve the threatened species, and those who still trade protected species will face legal action.”
The EU is funding this wildlife conservation project, in which WCS and the FiA partner with local communities to counter illegal wildlife trafficking and to protect endangered species. In addition to supporting this work, the European Union is also a key development partner to sustainable fisheries management in Cambodia.

“Cambodia has an incredible wealth of species and habitats. The Royal Turtle is one of the species that need protection urgently. Joint conservation efforts of communities, authorities and WCS should continue, to help the wild population to recover,” said Clemens Beckers, Representative of the EU Delegation in Cambodia, adding, “Today, we are glad to release these turtles into their natural habitat.”

Dr. Sonja Luz, Deputy CEO at Mandai Nature said, “It is heartening to see yet another release of the critically endangered Royal Turtle into their native habitat which signals the success of the head-starting facility and efforts led by WCS. The strong involvement from the local authorities and communities has also been critical in ensuring the turtles released can thrive in the wild. We all have a common goal of saving this species from extinction, and Mandai Nature remains committed to working with our partners to achieve this.”

Dr. Ken Sereyrotha, WCS Country Programme Director, concluded: “With the increasing number of adult in the wild through this release, we do hope that this species will breed in the wild and that annual nests will increase in the next few years”.

 

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press

 

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