Marking World Turtle Day on May 23, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS Cambodia) in collaboration with the Fisheries Administration and Kratie provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have released 100 endangered Cantor’s giant softshell turtles into the Mekong River in Kratie province.
WCS country director Ken Serey Rotha told The Post on May 23 that the release at Koh Preus sandy beach in O’Krasaing village in Sambor district’s Boeung Char commune on May 21 marks the success of a joint effort between the government and partner organisations in rehabilitating the endangered species.
“We have taken care of the animals’ nests and eggs, and we have released them into their natural habitat,” he said. “[This release] is indicative of the stability and habitat capacity of this rare species. If they are not safe, we will not let them go.”
Serey Rotha said that despite threats to the turtle from illegal fishing, public awareness has increased. He said the hatchlings were gathered in villages in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces. The patrol team feed them before releasing them into their natural habitat.
“This is the initial release for this year, and we plan to release more turtle babies when we check the health of the hatched babies and their ages,” Serey Rotha said.
He said WCS Cambodia and government agencies will continue to raise public awareness of the rare species and work to stop the use of electrical devices to catch turtles and prevent people from taking their eggs, selling or eating them.
“We will step up patrols as part of law enforcement and protect the nests. We will restore the wildlife habitat by raising awareness on conserving the sandy beach, which is an important area for the animal to nest,” Serey Rotha said.
Kratie provincial Fisheries Administration director Mok Ponlok did not immediately respond to a question for comment on May 23, saying he needed more information on the matter.
In a Facebook post on May 23, WCS Cambodia said in the 2021 nesting season, the Mekong community nest protection team, supported by the EU and USAID Greening Prey Lang, found 66 nests with 2,528 eggs, an increase from 49 nests with 1,756 eggs last year.
As of May 21, there had been 1,081 baby turtles hatched from 49 nests, of which 968 hatchlings were released into the wild since January, while the rest remain under care for future release.