NGO Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia on January 19 announced that its turtle conservation team “over the last few days” collected 54 royal turtle eggs laid on an artificial sand bank at the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre (KKRCC).

“The eggs were laid on the night of January 16 and 18, according to images obtained from a camera trap installed on the sand bank. This is the third consecutive year that Royal Turtles have laid eggs in captivity in Cambodia,” WCS Cambodia said via Facebook.

“The team expects to collect more eggs of captive turtles at the centre during the 2023 nesting season which began in January and will continue through March. Last year, the team found 81 eggs from nine clutches on the same sand bank.

“Captive breeding is one of several conservation strategies used by WCS Cambodia and Fisheries Administration to restore the population of the Royal Turtle in Cambodia,” it added.

WCS Cambodia shared that the KKRCC currently has 184 royal turtles, and that since 2015, a total of 147 young adults have been released into the wild.

“Sub-adult and adult turtles at the KKRCC are kept in four breeding ponds, whilst younger animals are raised in large plastic tanks before transferal to the breeding ponds,” it said.

Also known as the southern river terrapin and by its scientific name Batagur affinis, the royal turtle is one of the world’s 25 most endangered freshwater turtles and tortoises, and is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as “critically endangered”.

It was designated as Cambodia’s national reptile by Royal Decree No NS/RKT/0305/149 on Designation of Animals and Plants as National Symbols of the Kingdom of Cambodia, dated March 21, 2005.