A survey this week has confirmed that all 205 royal turtles at Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia Programme’s (WCS) Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre (KKRCC) – in northwestern Koh Kong province’s Mondul Seima district – are healthy.
Also known as the southern river terrapin and by its scientific name Batagur affinis, the royal turtle is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as “critically endangered”, and was designated as Cambodia’s national reptile by a 2005 royal decree, according to the NGO.
The 205 turtles “have been given a head-start” at the KKRCC, in Tuol Koki commune’s Tuol Koki village of southeastern Mondul Seima, since 2006, the WCS said.
“They were immediately collected after hatching from their nests on the beach along the Sre Ambel River System in Koh Kong province by the community nest protection team, and transferred to the centre to care for.
“On November 9-10, 2021, the WCS Royal Turtle Conservation Team, in collaboration with the Fisheries Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, collected blood samples from one third of 205 royal turtles of different age groups at KKRCC.
“The blood was checked for packed cell volume and total protein to make sure the turtles are healthy, have an appropriate diet, and are ready for reproduction,” it added.
According to the WCS, the care programme for the royal turtles in the KKRCC is backed by the Allan & Patricia Koval Foundation, Mandai Nature, Turtle Survival Alliance and other donors.
“The field work to protect and conserve this critical endangered species is supported by the European Union through Partners against Wildlife Crime Project, Mandai Nature, US Forest Service, Rainforest Trust and USAID-Feed the Future,” it said.