February 19, 2018 / 6:15 AM / 2 years ago

Cambodia discovers nest of critically endangered 'royal turtles'

The Royal turtle eggs are found by members of the non-profit Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) at Sre Ambel in Koh Kong province, Cambodia February 3, 2018. Picture taken on February 3, 2018. REUTERS/In hul/WCS Cambodia Handout via Reuters

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Wildlife experts in Cambodia have discovered a nest with 16 eggs built by the nearly extinct “royal turtle”, in the first such discovery this year, the non-profit Wildlife Conservation (WCS) Society said on Monday.

The southern river terrapin, known in Cambodia as the “royal turtle” because its eggs were historically reserved for royalty, is one of the world’s 25 most endangered freshwater turtles, the WCS says.

Over the past two years, just three such nests have been found in Cambodia, it added.

“Illegal clearance of flooded forest and illegal fishing puts this species at risk,” said Som Sitha, a technical adviser to the WCS.

“Everyone can help conserve our national reptile by not purchasing or eating their meat and eggs.”

Wildlife rangers in the southwestern province of Koh Kong, where the eggs were discovered along a river by villagers and conservationists, including the WCS, are guarding them until they hatch, the conservation group said in a statement.

Populations of Batagur affinis, as the species is known to zoologists, are “severely depleted”, it added, as it is hunted for its flesh and large eggs, and faced with habitat destruction.

The turtle was believed extinct in Cambodia until 2000, when a small population was rediscovered by conservationists.

Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Clarence Fernandez

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