It is currently classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the same status as tigers and pandas. Threats to its existence include over-harvesting by hunters due to its size and edibility, as well as habitat destruction from dams, irrigation and dredging.
The stretch of Mekong River where the turtle lives is an area closed for many years to scientific exploration because it was one the last strongholds of the former Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. The survey was the first detailed study of the area since security restrictions were relaxed in the late 1990s.
“Our survey work to date has documented some of the highest freshwater biodiversity values in the entire Lower Mekong Basin,?said Mark Bezuijen of WWF’s Living Mekong Program, who led the team. “We discovered an entirely new plant species, Amorphophallus Sp., along with surviving populations of such threatened species as terns, fish eagles, green peafowl, otters and silvered leaf-monkeys. More than 180 fish species were recorded, including a new record for Cambodia?
Bezuijen described the area where the turtle was discovered as “a near pristine region of tall riverine forest, waterways and island archipelagos where further exciting biological discoveries will almost certainly be made.?He said a further survey of the area by an international team of flora and fauna experts was planned for July 2007.
The turtle survey team consisted of Cambodian Fisheries Administration staff and the Cambodian Turtle Conservation Team, a group of early career conservationists who have received long-term mentoring from CI along with funding from the British energy company BP. During the survey, they worked closely with WWF staff and local fishing communities and explained the rarity of the turtle species and its importance for conservation.
For the future protection of the species, CI, WWF and the Cambodian Turtle Conservation Team