Endangered terrapin released into Cambodian river
Lucky travellers on south east Asia adventure tours could catch a glimpse of one of the world's rarest species - the southern river terrapin.
Only an estimated 200 adults of the species remain in the wild, found in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia, after over hunting decimated its numbers.
However, wildlife experts hope that the release of a female southern river terrapin fitted with a tracking device could help conservationists gain an important insight into the animal's habits which can then be used to protect the species and raise numbers.
The 75-pound turtle was released into the Sre Ambel River in Cambodia at a ceremony attended by officials, conservationists and last week.
As part of a joint project between the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Cambodian Fisheries Administration and Wildlife Reserves Singapore, the terrapin will be tracked with a satellite transmitter as part of the first-ever satellite monitoring study for this species.
By studying how the animal utilises its local environment and, in particular, how it navigates through commercial fishing grounds, it is hoped the mortality rate for the species can be lowered, which could help spark a resurgence in the population.
"By reducing the adult mortality of the southern river terrapin, even by fractions - as little as ten animals a year per population in this circumstance - we can have immediate and long-term positive impacts on the remaining wild populations of this critically endangered species," explained Brian Horne of the WCS.
The turtle was captured in the Sre Ambel River by local fishermen in April, but was turned over to WCS Cambodia, rather than being sold into the black market trade where it would have been sent to food markets in China.
"This project will contribute greatly to a much brighter future for this critically endangered terrapin," commented Dr Sonja Luz of Wildlife Reserves Singapore.
"Hopefully, more public awareness and education opportunities will arise from this and allow us to create better protection tools and a safer environment for these amazing reptiles."