June 1, 2006

Urgent effort underway to complete construction of Batagur facilities

At the end of May, 47 tiny hatchlings emerged from 59 fertile eggs that were incubated in-situ on the beaches of the Kaong River.  The Fisheries Department plan to release 10% of the hatchlings immediately while maintaining 30-50% for up to three years, allowing the young turtles to reach a size where their chances for survival improve greatly.  The remaining turtles will become the founders of a long-term assurance population, maintained in captivity in case wild populations do not survive. 

The Fisheries Department has been working with support from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) since 2000 to protect Cambodia?s last known surviving population of the mangrove terrapin, Batagur baska.  These efforts have included additional surveys and research on the ecology of the species, as well as active enforcement measures such as patrolling the rivers, confiscating animals, and guarding nesting beaches during the prime nesting season.  The project has also worked closely with local communities to raise awareness, and has gained the support of many fishermen and other local stakeholders, who frequently turn in or release turtles that they have accidentally caught in their fishing nets on the river.  However, despite these efforts, opportunistic and targeted hunting still remain threats to the population.  Last year, an adult male was confiscated from wildlife traders in Tay Ninh Province of Vietnam after it had been smuggled along with other turtles across the border from Cambodia.  Thanks to a microchip implanted in the turtle, the authorities were able to identify the turtle as having come from the Sre Ambel Cambodian population.  The Vietnamese and Cambodian governments then organized the animal?s return (an accomplishment in itself!). 

Sre Ambel?s last Batagur baska may also be drowning in fishing nets or being lost to other lesser-known threats.  A survey carried out in March of 2006 specifically focused on evaluating current threats to wild Batagur baska in southwest Cambodia.  Brief summary report link: _range_of_Batagur_ baska_in_

As part of an effort to ensure that Batagur baska do not disappear altogether, the Fisheries Department has opted to develop emergency facilities that will secure a small number of each year?s hatchlings, while releasing some back into the wild and continuing to push efforts to protect remaining wild populations. 

The Fisheries Department, with help from WCS, has succeeded in securing part of the overall costs of establishing these emergency facilities, thanks to the Shellshock Campaign. However, further support is being sought to maintain and develop the facilities.  For a brief summary of plans and progress:

Additional assistance with achieving this important and urgent project would be warmly welcomed.

Please contact:

Joe Walston
WCS Cambodia Program Director

This summary report submitted compiled by the ATCN

Ms. Le Thanh Thuy
Asian Turtle Program Officer
C/o Education for Nature ? Vietnam
PO Box 222