Conservationists have discovered 49 nests of the rare Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtles with 1,756 eggs on sandbars along the Mekong River in northeast Cambodia’s Kratie and Stung Treng provinces during the nesting season this year, a Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) statement said on Saturday.
Although this was only two nests more than in the 2019 nesting season, the number of eggs was much higher than in recent years, the statement said, adding that as of Friday, 824 baby turtles hatched from 41 nests, of which 657 hatchlings were released into the wild, while the rest were under care for future release.
Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtle is classified as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, it said. The species was thought to be extinct in the Cambodian portion of the Mekong River until its re-discovery in 2007 in a 48-km stretch of the river in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces.
“With continuous support from our donors and good cooperation from the Fisheries Administration (FiA), plus strong commitments of our field staff and community nest protection team, WCS has made significant progress in implementing its project over the past years,” said Ken Sereyrotha, country program director for WCS Cambodia.
“The increase in number of nests and eggs inspired us to put more efforts on the conservation of this critically endangered species,” he added.
Ouk Vibol, director of the Department of Fisheries Conservation of Fisheries Administration, appreciated the participation of local authorities, community and WCS in the conservation of the critically endangered turtles so that they can persist in the natural water bodies.
“All stakeholders should continue their efforts to conserve the threatened species, and those who still trade protected species will face legal action,” he said.
WCS and FiA have been working to conserve the species since 2017 through disrupting the illegal capture and trade in freshwater turtles, a community-based nest protection program, and support to community fisheries and community development, the statement said.
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