Back to the wild…again!
By Steven Platt & Jordan Gray
Last week, Turtle Survival Alliance’s partner WCS Cambodia released four Southern River Terrapins (Batagur affinis) back into the Sre Ambel River of southwestern Cambodia.
The four terrapins re-released last week hatched from eggs collected by the WCS/TSA/Fisheries Department turtle team years ago on a sandbank along the Sre Ambel River. In collaboration with the Royal Cambodian Fisheries Administration, the little turtles were headstarted at the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Center for six to eight years. The turtles were released into the river at various times over the past few years once they were considered large enough to have a better chance at survival in the wild.
Inadvertently following the terrapins initial release, fishermen captured the four terrapins deep in the mangroves swamps near the river’s mouth on the Gulf of Thailand. Fortunately, the fishermen returned the turtles to WCS Cambodia staff. After a brief quarantine in holding tanks, the terrapins were returned to the wild.
This group of Southern River Terrapins consists of two males (jet black head and neck with orange-yellow eyes), one female (somewhat larger than the males and rather drab in coloration), and one immature turtle that could not be reliably sexed (but appears to be a young male).
To allow the WCS Cambodia turtle team to track the terrapins’ movements follow their re-release, three of the turtles are now equipped with sonic transmitters on the rear edge of their top shell.
The Southern River Terrapin is listed as Critically Endangered and these turtles belong to the only surviving population in Cambodia. It’s with great hope that these turtles will now resume normal habits, thrive, and contribute to future generations of wild terrapins. And, should they again be incidentally captured, we can only hope that those fishermen are just as conscientious about Southern River Terrapin conservation as these were! Read the Southern River Terrapin Species Spotlight HERE!
You can help support Southern River Terrapin conservation and rewilding efforts by becoming a TSA donor today!
Photos: Thorn Phun