Rare Royal Turtle repatriated to Cambodia after 30 years
HCM CITY (VNS)— A large mangrove terrapin called "Royal Turtle" was transferred by Vietnamese conservationists to the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries at a ceremony in HCM City on Friday.
The critically-endangered mangrove terrapin (Batagur affinis) was repatriated to Cambodia after more than 30 years of breeding in the Suoi Tien Cultural Tourism Park in HCM City's suburban District 9.
The Royal Turtle was bought by Dinh Van Vui, Chairman of Suoi Tien Cultural - Tourism Co. Ltd. from an unknown resident in 1980.
In 2010, a staffer of the Vietnamese conservation group Education for Nature (ENV) found that the mangrove tarrapin was a extremely rare and precious species from Cambodia.
The HCM City Department of Forestry and Suoi Tien Co. has since co-operated with the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on plans to repatriate the rare turtle to Cambodia, ENV said.
"Cambodians value this species as part of their culture, referring to it as the ‘Royal Turtle' because at one time Cambodia's king declared the turtle to be protected by a royal decree and strictly prohibited its hunting," Tran Viet Hung, Deputy Director of ENV, was quoted as saying by the English-language newspaper The Cambodia Herald.
ENV noted that wild populations of the species in Cambodia have declined remarkably over the past few decades and are now found mainly in the Sre Ambel River system.
ENV said the royal turtle was being transferred to a conservation project in Sre Ambel River where it will be introduced into a breeding programme to boost the low population and increase genetic diversity of the species.
During the terrapin handover ceremony, Cambodian Fisheries Administration Deputy Secretary General Ing Try presented a certificate of appreciation to Vui, the chief executive of Suoi Tien Cultural Tourism Ltd.—VNS