After spending the last three months under the watchful eye of their own personal retinue of bodyguards, nine endangered royal turtles successfully broke free from their shells on Tuesday and were transferred to the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre, where they will be raised.
The nest of the critically endangered Batagur affinis turtle was discovered in February by a villager along the Kaong River in Koh Kong, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said yesterday. The Fisheries Administration and the WCS built a fence to protect the eggs and hired four villagers to guard the nest in Sre Ambel district’s Preah Ang Keo village until the eggs hatched, said Eng Mengey, WCS’s communications officer.
“There are only a few royal turtles left in the wild,” Mengey said. The royal turtle is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which tracks threatened species. Five other eggs in the nest did not hatch.
The turtle was believed extinct in Cambodia until 2000, when a small population was discovered by the Fisheries Administration and WCS in the Sre Ambel River system, Mengey said.
There are now 216 royal turtles living at the Koh Kong centre, and another 27 at the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity, Mengey said.
Fisheries Administration official Ouk Vibol said some 20 young royal turtles will be released into the wild in June or July.