Endangered giant turtles released on Turtle Day

Endangered giant turtles released on Turtle Day

Endangered giant turtles released on Turtle Day

Hundreds of critically endangered baby giant turtles were released into Cambodia’s Mekong River to mark World Turtle Day on May 23.

Cantor’s giant softshell turtles have all but vanished across their former territory in Vietnam and Thailand thanks to poaching and illegal trade, and were only rediscovered in the Southeast Asian country in 2007.

The Wildlife Conservation Society coordinated the release of 580 hatchlings, which can grow to a length of up to 200 centimeters and mainly live buried in the sand and the water, surfacing only twice a day to breathe.

Monks blessed the baby reptiles, also known as “frog-faced turtles” for their distinctive appearance, before helping conservationists and eager children send the stout-nosed snappers into the Mekong’s muddy waters.

The creatures are among a batch of 982 turtles rescued as eggs - to protect them from the dangers which threaten the species’ numbers - carefully incubated, hatched, and then released.

Ken Sereyrotha, country program director for WCS Cambodia, said significant progress had been made in protecting the animal in the country but more work was needed.

“This species is being threatened by illegal hunting and trafficking,” he said.

More than 2,000 eggs were found and rescued this year.