Protected Royal Turtle Found with Severe Fractured Skull

A fisherman discovered a critically-endangered Royal Turtle that had suffered severe head injuries likely caused by a boat on Sre Ambel River in Koh Kong province
The Royal Turtle with a severely fractured shell. Kiripost via WCS Cambodia
The Royal Turtle with a severely fractured shell. Kiripost via WCS Cambodia

A fisherman living along Sre Ambel River in Koh Kong province has spotted a female Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis edwardmolli), also known as the Royal Turtle, with a severely fractured shell, likely caused by the propeller of a speed boat or sand mining vessel.

In a news release, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS Cambodia) said the fisherman had spotted the Royal Turtle on November 16 and handed it over to the local WCS conservation team.

The animal was identified as an individual released into the Sre Ambel River System in late-November 2021 as part of the Royal Turtle Conservation project implemented by WCS in partnership with the Fisheries Administration (FiA).

“Due to the severity of its injuries, the WCS team, in collaboration with the FiA, and after consultation with the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), decided that it would be best to transfer the turtle to ACCB, Siem Reap province, for thorough examination and treatment.”

WCS added that although the injury is severe, it seems to be old and a lot of healed tissue appears on the fracture area. The turtle is receiving treatment for its injuries at ACCB and although it will take a long time for natural healing, X-rays do not show any reason for additional concern. “It’s incredible what a turtle can sustain and survive.”

WCS said that the Royal Turtle is designated as the national reptile of Cambodia and the species is classified as globally critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is also protected by CITES and Cambodia’s Law on Fisheries against catching, selling, transporting and trading.