More than 560 endangered Asian giant softshell turtle hatchlings were released on Thursday into their natural habitat along the Mekong River in Kratie province, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said.
The release aims to bolster the wild population of the turtles, which were thought to be extinct in Cambodia’s stretch of the Mekong River until they were rediscovered in 2007 between Kratie and Stung Treng provinces.
Ngourn Chanti, the WCS’s project coordinator, said the hatchlings were collected from nests that had been protected by local communities.
Many of the project’s participants are former turtle hunters who were recruited to protect the nests instead of harvesting the eggs.
Fisheries Conservation director Ouk Vibol said harvesting eggs and turtles is illegal in Cambodia. But the WCS said there is demand in the local market and in Vietnam for turtles.
“The community-based protection programme encourages the participation of local communities living in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces,” WCS said, adding that since 2007, 402 nests have been protected and 9,047 hatchlings released.
The WCS said the project was carried out in collaboration with the Fisheries Administration, Wildlife Reserve Singapore and Turtle Survival Alliance.