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Baby turtles move into their new home

Ven Rathavong / Khmer Times Share:
The royal turtle is critically endangered. Supplied

Nine hatchling royal turtles have been transferred to Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre, where they will be fed and cared for in the hope they can be used for breeding in future.  
The royal turtle, also known as the southern river terrapin, is Cambodia’s national reptile.
It is one of the world’s rarest freshwater turtles and is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species.
A royal turtle nest with 14 eggs was found by a villager along the Kaong river in February, one of the only places the species is still found in Cambodia.
A team from the Fisheries Administration and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) built a fence to protect the eggs and hired a villager to guard the nest until the eggs hatched.
Long Sman, who guarded the nest for three months, said he was delighted to see the eggs hatch.
“I am proud of the result and being part of conserving Cambodia’s royal turtles from extinction,” he said.
The turtle was believed extinct in Cambodia until 2000, when a small population was discovered living in the Sre Ambel river.
Former egg collectors in the area are now employed to search for and protect nests, instead of harvesting the eggs.
“There are only a few royal turtles left in the wild, so the number of nests is also low. This year, our conservation team found only one nest compared with two nests found in 2016 and three nests in 2015,” said WCS adviser Som Sitha.
“This is a big concern for royal turtle conservation. If sand dredging, illegal clearance of flooded forests and illegal fishing continues, our national reptile will face high risk of extinction.”

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