The Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS Cambodia) Nest Protection Team, in collaboration with the Fisheries Administration, have found five nests of the critically endangered Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtle (also known as frog-headed turtle) during the 2020 breeding season on a beach along the Mekong River in Kratie province’s Sambor district.
WCS Cambodia’s Mekong Regional Coordinator Nhuon Chanty told The Post that the first nest they discovered had 32 eggs, but within a week the team had found four more nests.
“If we total the number of eggs in the five nests we found, there were more than 150 eggs. We will collect these frog-headed turtle eggs and put them in a safe place for them to hatch,” he said.
The frog-headed turtle breeding season runs from November to May. The nest protection programme for the species is funded by the EU under the “Wildlife Crime Partnership” Margaret A Cargill and US Agency for International Development (USAID) Greening Prey Lang (USAID-GPL).
Chanty said his team was happy to have found the nests and eggs so early in the season because most years the number of total nests they find between November and May is very few.
“At this time last year we had only found one frog-headed turtle nest, but this year we’ve already found five of them. We never expected to find so many like this. We hope we keep finding more nests until the middle of next year,” he said.
For the 2019-2020 breeding season, the WCS Cambodia’s Nest Protection Team found 49 frog-headed turtle nests with more than 1,700 eggs in total, but only 845 of the eggs hatched because of the hot weather.
Som Sitha, the Koh Kong and Mekong River Conservation Project Manager for WCS Cambodia, told The Post that his organisation will continue to cooperate with local communities by hiring people from the area to act as protectors of the turtles and to help educate other people in the community about the conservation of frog-headed turtles.
“Last [season] we had a lot of community involvement and we hope that this year there will be even more cooperation with the frog-headed turtles conservation teams,” he said.
Sitha said local residents are aware of the plight of the frog-headed turtle and that they support conservation work by telling the WCS teams where nests are located or alerting them to problems in the area.
According to WCS Cambodia, the nest protection teams in the community have succeeded in protect these first five nests from destruction but there are five months to go in the breeding season and they must remain vigilant.