Conservationists Discover Nest of One of World's Rarest Turtles

Conservationists have found a nest of a critically endangered turtle with 16 eggs

(photo-The royal turtle eggs found by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Wildlife Conservation Society / Facebook

Conservationists have found a nest of a critically endangered turtle with 16 eggs along the Sre Ambel River system near Preah Angkeo village in Cambodia's Koh Kong province, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced Monday.

This is the first nest of the southern river terrapin discovered this year. Four local community rangers have been hired to guard the nest until the eggs hatch.

Known locally as the "royal turtle," the reptiles got its name because it was historically considered a delicacy reserved for the Cambodian royal family. It was designated as the country's national reptile in 2005.

The turtles were believed to be extinct until its re-discovery in the river in 2000. Only three nests were found in the last two years.

The southern river terrapin is currently listed on IUCN's Red List as critically endangered. The rare species has been "pushed to the brink of extinction largely due to unsustainable harvesting of eggs and adults. Consequently, they exist in small isolated populations and there are only a few wild nesting females left in total," the IUCN said. "Young terrapins are also vulnerable to predators such as water birds and monitor lizards, and to accidental entanglement in fishing gear."

The royal turtle is one of the world's 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles, the WCS noted.

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