Local shell-ebrities: 19 eggs of critically endangered sea turtle bring joy to conservationists

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Royal Turtle eggs in a single clutch on an artificial sand bank at the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre (KKRCC) in one night last week. WCS CAMBODIA

The Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia Programme (WCS Cambodia) said it was delighted to see 19 Royal Turtle eggs in a single clutch on an artificial sand bank at the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre (KKRCC) in one night last week.

The NGO said on January 13 that footprints left in the sand by a female royal turtle prompted the team to search for her eggs the next morning, when they found the clutch.

“This is the second year that royal turtles have laid eggs in captivity in Cambodia. The conservation team transferred all of the eggs to a nearby artificial sandbank to complete incubation,” the NGO said.

It said the number of adult and juvenile royal turtles at the KKRCC in northwestern Koh Kong province’s Mondul Seima district currently stands at a modest 154, thanks to ongoing conservation efforts.

On November 26, 51 adult royal turtles were released into the wild in northern Preah Sihanouk province’s Kampong Seila district, all of which were head-started from wild nests made since 2006 along the Sre Ambel River system.

It said five head-started royal turtles laid 71 eggs in five clutches at the centre.

“Successful captive breeding is a conservation milestone for the recovery of this critically endangered species in Cambodia,” the NGO said.

Also known as the southern river terrapin and by its scientific name Batagur affinis, the royal turtle is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as “critically endangered”, and was designated as Cambodia’s national reptile by a 2005 royal decree, according to the NGO.