The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Fisheries Administration are to release 20 royal turtles into the Sre Ambel River in Preah Sihanouk province on Friday as part of the launch of the EU Counter-Wildlife Trafficking project.
The release of the royal turtles in Boeung Trach village, in Kampong Seila district’s Chamkar Luong commune, will be presided over by director-general of the Fisheries Administration Eng Cheasan.
The event will also be attended by Buddhist monks, provincial governors and local authorities, donors and members of the local community, as well as teachers and students.
The ceremony is being jointly organised by WCS and the Fisheries Administration.
The release of the 20 royal turtles comes as part of efforts to conserve the species, which was believed to be extinct in Cambodia until 2000 when a small population was rediscovered by WCS and the Fisheries Administration in Koh Kong province’s Sre Ambel River.
“Since then, WCS and the Fisheries Administration have been working together to protect the species from extinction. Conservation activities include a nest protection programme, the raising of hatchlings until they can be released, the prevention of their illegal trade, law enforcement, monitoring, outreaches and supporting the livelihoods of those in local communities,” WCS and the Fisheries Administration said.
Som Sitha, technical adviser to WCS, told The Post on Tuesday that the EU Counter-Wildlife Trafficking project is aimed at conserving all wildlife in Cambodia, not only the royal turtle, with an emphasis on preventing the trafficking of wildlife from the Kingdom into neighbouring countries.
“The project is to last four years from 2019 to 2022,” he said.
Sitha added that the counter wildlife trafficking project is being funded by the EU.
He said Friday’s event will be the third large-scale release of royal turtles. In 2015, the WCS and FIA released 21, while 25 were released in 2017.
Royal turtles – officially the southern river terrapin, also native to Indonesia and Malaysia – can only be found in Cambodia along the Sre Ambel River in Preah Sihanouk and Koh Kong provinces.
Fisheries Administration director-general Cheasan told The Post that royal turtles are protected through the prevention of sand dredging in their habitat along the river and by raising awareness of the creature’s plight among fishing communities to stop them from being caught and eaten.
“We release the royal turtle to protect it because it is an endangered species,” he said.