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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
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
About Education for Nature – Vietnam
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