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Critically endangered royal turtle
is heading home

Ho Chi Minh City, October 5, 2012 – A critically endangered “royal turtle” is heading home to Cambodia today after an almost 30-year stay in Vietnam.

The large mangrove terrapin (Batagur affinis) was first discovered by staff from Education for Nature-Vietnam (ENV) in October 2010, at the Suối Ti ê n Cultural Resort on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City. According to Mr. Đinh Văn Vui, CEO of Suối Tiên Cultural Tourism Ltd., the turtle has been kept here since the 1980s.

ENV spent nearly two years working with Mr. Vui, CITES Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City authorities, and counterparts from the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture-Forestry-Fisheries, to secure the turtle's return.

“We thank Mr. Vui for his decision, because this turtle is particularly important to Cambodia,” says Mr. Tran Viet Hung, Vice Director of ENV. “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.”

However, wild populations of the species in Cambodia have declined remarkably over the past few decades, and today are found mainly in the Sre Ambel River system in the southern coastal region. Last year, only three females were confirmed to have nested on the sandy riverbanks in this region, a stable but dangerously small fraction of a once-robust local population.

The Batagur was handed over to the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture-Fisheries-Forestry at a special ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City today. It will now be transferred to the Batagur Conservation Project in the Sre Ambel River system in Cambodia, where it will be introduced into a conservation breeding program in an effort to boost the drastically low populations and increase the genetic diversity of this species.

ENV wishes to thank all of the partners who helped send this turtle home, including the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Cambodia for assisting ENV in coordinating the Cambodian side of the return, and Ms. Đoàn Nguyễn Thùy Trang of the National Assembly for supporting the return and ultimately making it happen. ENV also wishes to thank the Humane Society International for their support in this important species transfer.

 

For further information, please find in the attachment or contact:

Hoang Hue Linh (Ms.)

Communication and Public Awareness Unit

Education for Nature - Vietnam (ENV)

No. 5 IF1, lane 192 Thai Thinh street, Dong Da district, Hanoi
PO Box 222, Hanoi
Tel/fax: +84 4 35148850 (Ext: 404); +84 94 635 8488

E-mail: communication.env@gmail.com

Website: www.envietnam.org (English), www.thiennhien.org (Vietnamese)

Above: The Batagur turtle when it was kept at Suoi Tien Cultural Resort (photo taken October 2010). Mr Vui from Suoi Tien says he received the turtle as a gift in the early 1980s, when it weighed about 2kg. It was kept at the park for almost 30 years.

 

Above: The hand-over ceremony took place in HCMC with a traditional Cambodian dance performance to recognize the importance of transferring the turtle to Cambodia.

 

Above: Mr. Ing Try - Deputy Director General, Fisheries Administration, Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries - presenting a certificate of appreciation for the turtle transfer to Mr Vui from Suoi Tien.

 

Above: Seeing the turtle off! After the ceremony has finished, the "royal turtle" is moved to transportation waiting to carry it over the border back to Cambodia, where it will enter a special conservation breeding program.

 

About Batagur affinis
Batagur affinis is a large mangrove terrapin found along coastal rivers in Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia
and Sumatra (Indonesia). In Cambodian culture, the Batagur turtle is also known as the “royal turtle” and
was once a highly abundant species. Sadly, the turtles were overexploited for their flesh and eggs, and
now only small isolated populations remain. It was thought to have disappeared from Cambodia until
2000, when a small population was discovered living in the Sre Ambel area of Cambodia's coastal region.
The Batagur Conservation Project in the Sre Ambel River system in Cambodia focuses on actively
conserving this small population, which is under threat from human disturbance to its habitat, and illegal
trade. The project team patrols the river system regularly, guards nesting beaches, and operates a
conservation hatchling center. Project members estimate that there are less than 10 nesting females
remaining.

 

About Education for Nature – Vietnam
Education for Nature-Vietnam (ENV) was established in 2000 as Vietnam's first non-governmental organization focused on conservation of nature and the environment. Our mission is to foster greater understanding amongst the Vietnamese public about environmental issues of local, national and global significance, ranging from protection of wildlife and natural ecosystems to climate change. We employ creative and innovative strategies to influence attitudes and behavior, not only highlighting the need to protect Vietnam's rich natural heritage and the living world around us, but also encouraging greater public participation in achieving this important and challenging task.

 

About ENV's Wildlife Crime Hotline
ENV maintains a toll-free national Wildlife Crime Hotline to facilitate reporting of crimes by the general public. Trained case officers from ENV receive calls and transfer information about wildlife crimes to appropriate local authorities. Each case is then documented and tracked through to conclusion. Members of the public are kept informed of the results of cases that they report to ENV. So far, ENV has documented more than 4,200 wildlife crime cases resulting in confiscation of hundreds of animals, closure of wildlife markets and restaurants, removal of advertisements, and punishment of violators, as well as voluntary action by hundreds of violators after initial warnings were issued by ENV.

If you observe wildlife or products made from wildlife in restaurants, markets, hotels, or elsewhere in Vietnam let us know immediately.

Call our toll-free hotline number - 1800 1522 - and make a report to one of our English-speaking staff members (from inside Vietnam only). You can remain anonymous if you wish, or if you prefer, give us your contact details so we can keep you informed of the outcome of the case you have reported.

Alternatively, let us know electronically by emailing us at hotline@fpt.vn or completing the online report form.

 

 

 
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