The Environment Ministry yesterday received two Royal turtles, weighing about 20 kilogrammes each, which were donated by a woman who bought them from fishermen in Koh Kong province’s Sre Ambel district.
Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said at the ceremony to receive the turtles, they would be handed over to the Wildlife Conservation Society.
He said the Royal turtle is among the 20 most endangered turtle species in the world and very few remain in Cambodia, most of which are found in Preah Sihanouk and Koh Kong provinces.
Mr Pheaktra said such donations from the public demonstrate the joint efforts by the people, authorities and conservation groups to save wild animals.
“This joint participation is valuable for research and biodiversity conservation,” he said. “The Royal turtle is an endangered species and people want to preserve them for future generations.”
“Please say no to eating, trading and hunting such wild animals. With natural resource conservation and wildlife protection, we can receive economic benefits through ecotourism,” Mr Pheaktra added.
Som Sitha, WCS Cambodia technical advisor, said the turtles will be sent for medical examination before being sent to the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Center.
He said the two reptiles are about 14 years old, with the Royal turtle’s lifespan estimated to be over 100 years.
“The conservation of the Royal turtle still faces challenges, with the biggest threats being illegal fishing and sand dredging in the conservation area,” Mr Sitha said. “Just as in this case [the handing over], people went fishing and caught these turtles to sell.”
“In recent years, we have been working hard to improve the livelihoods of people in the community so that people can join us in conservation efforts and increase cooperation with the Fisheries Administration to strengthen patrols and law enforcement,” he added.
Mr Sitha said there are currently 450 Royal turtles at the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Center, with 86 adults having been released into the wild.
He said female turtles can reach up to 60 cm in length and begin reproducing when they are 20 years old, while the males are about 49 to 50 cm long.
Phnom Penh resident Lay Phontheng, who handed over the Royal turtles, said she bought the reptiles from a fisherman in Sre Ambel district for $400 each.
“I handed them over to the Ministry for conservation to protect them from being traded further,” she said.
Ms Phontheng urged fishermen there to stop catching these rare species because their actions won’t benefit the nation, but instead destroy natural resources.