During the 1980s and 1990s, it was believed that the royal turtle became extinct in Cambodia. However, in 2000, a team of experts from the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), in collaboration with the Cambodian Fisheries Administration, rediscovered the turtle’s presence in the Sre Ambel canal system in Koh Kong province.
Mr. Som Sitha, Project Manager of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), said that the royal turtle is a species that feeds on plants and seasonal fruits that are available along the river, such as mangrove apple (Sonneratia sp.), morning glory (Ipomea purpurea), bean sprouts, fig fruit, and various water plants including water hyacinth and duckweed. Occasionally, they are seen eating aquatic animals such as prawns and shrimps.
In order to increase natural populations of this species, the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Center has bred and hatched more than 450 baby turtles that are currently in the center’s care for rearing, while 147 healthy juvenile turtles have been released back to nature. “The center will continue its mission of breeding, incubating, rearing, and releasing the royal turtle back into the wild as much as possible,” Sitha said.
The Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Center was established in 2016 under the Royal Turtle Conservation Project of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in collaboration with the Fisheries Administration and Mandai Nature of Singapore, with financial support from donors including the European Union, the US Forest Service, the Rainforest Trust, the Turtle Survival Alliance, and other private donors. Currently, there are a total of 154 royal turtles in the center.