Cambodian conservationists on Friday released 51 critically endangered king turtles back into the wild, in a bid to support a species thought to be extinct two decades ago. Also known as the Southern River Turtle, the large river turtles are on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, and the European Union is helping fund the recovery program in Cambodia.
The turtles, collected between 2006 and 2015 immediately after hatching and reared in a conservation center, were released into the Sre Ambel River in Cambodia’s coastal province of Preah Sihanouk. “With the increasing number of adults into the wild thanks to this release, we hope this species will breed in the wild and annual nests will increase over the next several years,” said Ken Sereyrotha of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The turtles, 31 females and 20 males between 6 and 15 years old are implanted with an electronic chip and have an acoustic transmitter attached to their shell. The royal turtle was considered extinct in Cambodia until 2000 due to sand dredging, illegal fishing and habitat loss. It was designated the country’s national reptile in 2005.
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