Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sre Ambel turtle conservation

The Batagur baska or mangrove terrapin is a species of riverine turtle, and it's one of the most critically-endangered turtle species according to recent assessments by the relevant authorities. Batagur baska is also called the Royal Turtle in Cambodia because its eggs were a royal delicacy and is found only in the area of Sre Ambel, in the southwest coastal region. Everyone loves turtles, but its wildlife conservationists like Heng Sovannara who are doing their utmost to educate the local people of the need to protect their wildlife neighbours. Sovannara heads the Wildlife Conservation Society Batagur baska Conservation Project and they're doing a fantastic job in making sure the future of the royal turtle is assured.

One of the major problems in saving this species is that, although long lived, they do not reach breeding age until they are 25 years old. And from the information gathered over the past few years, it appears that there may be as few as a handful of breeding females remaining at present. The royal turtle can grow to more than 30 kilogrammes and reach almost one metre in length. They spend most of their lives in mangrove-lined tidal estuaries, but have been known to be caught by local fishermen many kilometres out to sea. During the breeding season both sexes change colour from grey to black. Adult males are considerably smaller than the females, easily distinguishable by their vivid yellow eyes. Egg-bearing females travel many kilometres upriver to find the ideal sandbank on which to lay their eggs. There they dig a pit of between one and one-and-a-half metres in depth, and over a six week period they can lay two or even three clutches of up to 20 eggs. As is the case with many reptiles, the older the female, the more eggs are produced. Cambodia is home to at least 12 tortoises and freshwater turtle species.
Now you know the facts, please visit the Sre Ambel Batagur baska website to find out more and how you can help. And here's a story about the royal turtles by one of my favourite writers, Karen Coates. Click here.

No comments: