Conservationists measure a Royal Turtle in Kandal province, Cambodia on Feb. 16, 2023. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia and the Fisheries Administration have handed over 15 nearly-extinct Royal Turtles to a research institute for biological study and breeding, a conservationist said on Saturday. (Photo by Hean Saravy/Xinhua)
PHNOM PENH, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia and the Fisheries Administration have handed over 15 nearly-extinct Royal Turtles to a research institute for biological study and breeding, a conservationist said on Saturday.
Som Sitha, WCS Cambodia project manager, said two sub-adult male and female and 13 juveniles were delivered to the National Aquaculture Research and Development Institute Samdech Techo Hun Sen on Thursday.
The institute, located in the Roka commune of Kandal province, covers an area of approximately 30 hectares.
"The purpose is to have them at the institute for students to study their biology, as well as for breeding," he told Xinhua. "Transferring some of these critically endangered turtles for breeding in different places will allow to better protect and conserve the species from extinction."
Sitha said this is the third assurance colony of its kind, after the WCS's Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Center in Koh Kong province and Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity in Siem Reap province.
The WCS will provide technical support as needed to ensure the reptiles stay healthy, he added.
The Royal Turtle, also known as Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis), is classified as globally critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species and protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The species was designated as the national reptile of Cambodia by a Royal Decree issued in 2005, and under Cambodia's law on fisheries, catching, selling, transporting and trading the animal are prohibited.
The reptile was believed extinct in the Southeast Asian nation until 2000 when a small population was rediscovered by the Fisheries Administration and the WCS in the Sre Ambel River in Koh Kong province. ■