In conjunction with World Turtle Day on May 23, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) commemorated the conservation of Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtles in Cambodia.
This year, the WCS recorded 49 turtle nests – two more than last year – with a total of 1,756 eggs. While the increase in nests was minimal, a WCS said the number of eggs represented a large increase over the past three years.
As of Friday, 824 baby turtles had hatched from 41 nests, with 657 hatchlings being released into the wild. The remaining hatchlings were placed under care until they could be released into their natural habitat.
“With continuous support from our donors and good cooperation from the Fisheries Administration, plus strong commitments of our field staff and community nest protection team, WCS has made significant progress in implementing its project over the past years,” said its country programme director Ken Serey Rotha.
“The increase in the number of nests and eggs of soft-shelled turtle inspired us to put more efforts on the conservation of this critically endangered species,” he said.
The Fisheries Administration’s Department of Fisheries Conservation director Ouk Vibol said he appreciated the cooperation between local authorities, the community, and WCS and urged all parties to continue to protect the turtles and allow them to live in their natural habitat.
He stressed that anyone trading protected animals would face legal action.
Dr Sonja Luz, the director of Conservation, Research and Veterinary Services at Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), stressed the importance of the turtles being able to live freely.
“As a wildlife conservation organisation, beyond caring for the animals in our zoological parks, our responsibility also extends to protecting threatened species in the wild.
“WRS is happy to be able to play our part to support the work of regional conservation partners like WCS Cambodia in ensuring a future for the Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtles in the wild,” Luz said.
According to the press release, the Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtle, whose scientific name is Pelochelys cantorii, is classified as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
The endangered turtles have made brief appearances in Laos, but they have been pushed out of their former homes in Vietnam and Thailand, mainly due to poachers and traders who value adult turtles and their eggs.
The turtles were not spotted anywhere in the world between 2003 and 2007, but they reappeared on the Mekong River between Kratie and Stung Treng provinces.
WCS and the Fisheries Administration started to conserve the species in 2017 by fighting their illegal captures, protecting their nests and supporting the communities surrounding the turtles’ habitat.