At least 30 “royal” baby turtles hatched from their eggs in Koh Kong province in recent weeks, agriculture officials said.
The hatch nearly doubles the known population of the extremely rare estuarine terrapin, called “andeuk sarsai” in Khmer. The turtles are thought to number about 50 adults living in the Sre Ambel river.
Officials from the fisheries department and Wildlife Conservation Society found six nests with 68 eggs and had fenced off the area to prevent predators from eating them, but less than half of the eggs hatched, said Nao Thuok, director of the fisheries department.
Two nests never hatched because they were submerged in water, he said.
The giant estuarine terrapins, thought to be extinct in Cambodia for more than a century, were rediscovered last year along the Sre Ambel river.
The turtles weigh up to 31 kg as adults.
The turtles were once considered to be the exclusive property of the royal family, with adult turtles protected by royal decree. But the last recorded sighting of a live estuarine terrapin in Cambodia was in the 1890s by French explorer Auguste Pavie, wildlife officials said.
The turtles once thrived along the Tonle Sap lake, but disappeared from the shore because their eggs were regularly collected for food, Nao Thuok said.