150 Endangered Turtle Hatchlings Released From Protection

More than 100 endangered turtle hatchlings were released from protected nests into the Mekong River in Kratie province on Wednesday in an effort by conservation organizations and the Fisheries Administration to grow the species’ numbers, an NGO said in a statement.

“The purpose of this release is to increase the wild population of the Asian Giant Softshell Turtle,” said Sun Yoeung, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia’s softshell turtle conservation project coordinator, in the statement.

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Asian giant softshell turtle hatchlings, which were released into the Mekong River in Kratie province on Wednesday (WCS Cambodia )

While WCS could not estimate how many of the frog-faced turtles lived in the wild in Cambodia, they are only found within a 48-km stretch of the Mekong between Kratie and Stung Treng provinces, Eng Mengey, WCS communications officer, said in an email.

Until 2007, the species was thought to be extinct from the Mekong habitat in Cambodia, the statement said.

WCS pays six former turtle and egg harvesters $100 per month—plus a $0.25 “bonus” for each surviving hatchling—to find nests, build defense barriers and check and guard nests regularly, Mr. Mengey said.

Since 2007, 378 nests have been protected and 8,528 hatchlings released, according to the statement.

Ouk Vibol, director of the Fisheries Administration’s fisheries conservation department, said a kilogram of turtle meat could fetch about $20 at the market, but catching, selling or buying endangered species was illegal. Violators could be fined two or three times the animal’s market price under the Fisheries Law, Mr. Vibol said.

Wednesday’s release in Sambor district’s Kompong Cham commune would not only contribute to local incomes but also “encourage the support and involvement of local communities in conserving the species,” said Mr. Yoeung in a statement.

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