In 2022, a Royal turtle (Batagur affinis) at the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre (KKRCC) has laid 80 new eggs which will soon hatch. This brings hope for environmentalists after only one of the 71 eggs laid last year hatched due to lack of conditions.

Som Sitha, Project Manager of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), told The Post on April 11 that Steve – a one-year-old royal turtle – was the only egg among the 71 eggs that hatched at the (KKRCC) back in 2021. It was named after “Steve”.

He said that Steve was named after Dr Steven G. Platt, an American herpetologist, in honour of his research work.

With support from Fisheries Administration, Platt was the first to rediscover the existence of the royal turtle, also known as southern river terrapin, in the Sre Ambel stream system in Sre Ambel district of Koh Kong Province in 1999-2000.

Steve was considered to be the lucky one out of 71 Royal Turtle eggs in light of the fact that the rest of them died. The eggs were the first ever laid in captivity at the Centre.

“The problem that caused all 71 turtle eggs to fail to hatch could have come from the young female turtle, perhaps a combined lack of nutrients with levels of protein and calcium, which are a source of sufficient conditions for healthy eggs and babies,” he said.

He added that in order for the turtle eggs to be good quality and actually hatch instead of die, the centre team had added high-protein and calcium-rich foods to all the turtles at the centre, especially the adult turtles.

However, he said that since Steve hatched, there has been quite a bit of promise for more hatchlings. So far this year, the centre has received nine new nests that hold a total of 80 eggs.

The nine turtle eggs could cause someone to conclude that there are currently nine turtles and in one to two years, there may be another 20 to 30 turtles.

“We have noticed that the eggs have good hard shells and up to 50 per cent of them show signs of embryo development. The centre hopes that the turtle eggs will successfully hatch soon,” he said.

He went on to say that the royal turtle is a species of tortoise that takes many years to grow up and breed.

According to studies of nature in Malaysia, the female turtle is only 20 to 25 years old before it can reproduce. But at the KKRCC, the royal turtle is only 14 to 15 years old before it can reproduce.

“The conservation of royal turtles is very difficult, both for breeding and for conservation work in the field, because it takes a long time for them to breed and grow up,” he said, adding that there are currently a total of 154 royal turtles in the KKRCC.