A total of 122 royal turtles hatched from nests on an artificial sandbank at the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre (KKRCC) last week, the third time this has occurred.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia issued a May 22 joint press release with the Fisheries Administration (FiA), detailing their pride in the successful hatchings.
The royal turtle, also known as the Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis), is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (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.
WCS said that this year, KKRCC collected 21 nests with a total of 272 eggs, 122 of which successfully hatched. In 2022, just nine nests produced 81 eggs, only 31 of which hatched.
KKRCC manager Christopher Poyser said the substantial increase in hatchlings is a testament to the hard work of the staff and their 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,” he added.
Ouk Vibol, director of the FiA’s conservation department, said he was very proud to learn that there were so many hatchlings.
“This offers new hope for restoring the species in Cambodia,” he added.
“We strongly encourage and support the continuation of this captive breeding programme, as we hope to see this species survive for our next generation,” he said.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra called on fishermen to play their parts in preserving the royal turtle, so that its presence in natural sanctuaries will grow.
“I call on the people of all local communities, especially fishermen, to join the authorities in conserving this precious animal, which is the national reptile of Cambodia. The turtle, and other rare animals, have the potential to attract many tourists to the Kingdom,” he said.
According to WCS, conservationists believed that the royal turtle was extinct in Cambodia, until a small population was rediscovered in 2000.
Currently, KKRCC 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.