Cantor’s softshell turtle was thought to be lost from Cambodia until a 2007 survey by CI and partners found a small population in the Mekong River.
Since then, CI Greater Mekong has been working with local communities to restore this population, which has been diminished by threats like habitat degradation and human consumption.
In 2011, the Mekong Turtle Conservation Center was established, and it has been bursting with baby turtles ever since.
The purpose of the center is to raise wild-born turtle hatchlings until they grow big enough to survive predators like birds and snakes. After a period of about 10 months, the turtles are released back into the river. Returning animals like turtles back into the wild is a common Buddhist tradition; a previous incarnation of Buddha was believed to be a turtle.
CI also pays local community members to protect and monitor Cantor’s softshell turtle nests. Local community members, like Ke Sarith, used to collect eggs for food. Now Sarith calls the turtle conservation center once the eggs begin to hatch.
In addition to providing direct compensation for the nests they protect, the turtle center aims to expand tourism in the area, bringing money to the center and the local economy.