The Siem Reap provincial Department of Environment has recently handed 11 turtles, rescued during crime suppression operations, to the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB).

The native reptiles will undergo monitoring and treatment before their eventual return to their natural habitat.

Sun Kong, the director of the provincial environmental department, said that the turtles were recovered as part of an operation targeting individuals who were involved in selling turtles to traders or tourists in the vicinity of Angkor Wat.

Among the animals, one was identified as a non-native species.

Kong explained that following the crackdown on this illegal activity, the department collaborated with the APSARA National Authority (ANA) at the local level. Their joint efforts aimed to prevent and deter further sales.

Highlighting a recurring issue, Kong noted that children under the age of 16 have been apprehended selling turtles before, and previous operations resulted in agreements to cease their sale.

He emphasised the importance of sending the recently confiscated creatures to the ACCB to ensure their health and readiness for release into their natural habitat, thereby enhancing their breeding prospects.

Kong explained that in the past, authorities have released confiscated turtles in various locations, including the Tonle Sap Lake, Angkor forest area, and Phnom Kulen National Park.

The department has also released other rescued species into their natural environments.

Addressing challenges faced by these turtles and wildlife in general, Kong outlined two key issues.

Firstly, he said that turtles are at risk due to being hunted for food, as well as for sale.

Secondly, he added that fire also poses a threat. Fires are often set to clear land for agriculture or to smoke out bees in order to collect their honey.

To mitigate the risks to turtles and other wildlife, both the Ministry of Environment and relevant authorities have engaged in extensive outreach efforts.

They have urged the public, local authorities, and restaurant owners to cease the purchase, sale, or preparation of turtle-based dishes for guests.