PHNOM PENH, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- Three nests with 51 eggs of the nearly-extinct Royal Turtle have been found at wetlands in the Sre Ambel River in southwestern Cambodia's Koh Kong province, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said in a press release on Wednesday.
The eggs were spotted by conservationists from the Fisheries Administration, WCS and a local nest protection team, the release said.
Royal Turtle, also known as Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis), is one of the world's 25 most endangered freshwater turtles and tortoises. It is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as "critically endangered".
"The Sre Ambel River System is key to the survival of Royal Turtle because it has beaches, flooded forest and mangrove where they can find their food and breed," said WCS country program director Ken Sereyrotha.
He said it had been the first time since 2016 that up to three nests were discovered, as in the last four years, only one nest was found each year.
"The increase in the nests resulted from the decision made by the government to end sand dredging business and include the Sre Ambel River System as a protected area for Royal Turtles, and the recent release of 86 Royal Turtles into the river," he said.
Royal Turtle has been designated as Cambodia's National Reptile by a Royal Decree issued in 2005.
The species was believed extinct in Cambodia until 2000 when a small population was rediscovered. Since then, the Fisheries Administration and WCS have worked together to protect it from extinction.
Ouk Vibol, director of Fisheries Conservation Department of Fisheries Administration, said he was happy to see the rise in nests of the Royal Turtle.
"The Fisheries Administration will continue to work actively with WCS to conserve Royal Turtles through habitat and beach protection, research and monitoring, and nest protection program," he said.