Royal Turtle: The National Reptile of Cambodia

Posted by IntoCambodia Team on 05 August 2018
Royal Turtle: The National Reptile of Cambodia

Royal Turtle is reptile that represents of Khmer culture and also known as Arn Derk SorSai or Arn Derk Loung in Khmer, as well as the English name Royal Turtle and the scientific name Batagur baska. It has white eyes, straight up nose-shaped, 60 cm length black or grey shell, and only four toes which differ from general turtle with five toes as human. Its front legs are big and have a contiguous skin similar to duck leg. In ancient times, it had a history protected by a royal decree and considered it as the royal dynasty property in Cambodia. The Royal turtle’ eggs were collected from January to March for the Royal Family, that is why Khmer people called the Royal Turtle. When the people caught the turtles, they always take it to wash and decorate, and invite the monks to bless for peace.

The Royal Turtles are endangered species which it has been closely monitored by international conservation agencies along with NGOs and also has been listed on the IUCN Red List. This reptile is prohibited from doing international trade, as listed in the annex to the CITES treaty (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention). During the 1980s and 1990s, it was believed that the reptile was already extinct in Cambodia. In 1995, it was discovered in Sre Ambel District, Koh Kong Province. In 2002, the Department of Fisheries collaborated with WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) have been hatched 32 born of turtles and released them back into nature. Conservation Agencies and NGOs are interested in providing support for this species, but along with the beautiful mangrove forest, it is a fascinating source of tourists. The Royal Turtles like to live by the canals, on the gulf coast or the coast with mangrove forest or Inundate forest. They feed on leafy plants, sprouts, aquatic plants, and insects. It moves by its four feet slowly. The mangrove forest is the place where the turtle likes to live. In Cambodia, the mangrove forest extends from Kep to Koh Kong, which covers more than 5,000 hectares. The Mangrove forest is a special tropical tree that grows on the seafront, a junction between the forest and the sea. This area is the breeding ground for shrimp, squid, crab, snails, and fish and also a shelter for other animals such as birds, lizards, sea turtles, and other species. Inundate forest is a forest grow in a lake or in the flooded area. This kind of area is also the likely place for royal turtles to live.

Although the turtles are slow moving animals, if we observe its features, we will see that it has a number of features:

  1. Cautious: Royal Turtles are always alert when moving or in everyday living. It has the strong shell that can withstand the enemy, and it is a persistent animal and tries to overcome all the challenges it encounters. It is often said that turtles are a coward, but if we think more precisely, it is a way to fight the enemy. It is a kind and affectionate animal.
  2. Turtles are creatures that can be counted as intelligent because, in every tension situation, they can be known quickly and can be solved or escaped.
  3. A lucky drawer: When people caught it, they always take it to wash and make-up and then invite the monks to bless for peace and prosperity.
  4. Age: In term of the age, Royal Turtles are longest life animal than any other turtle species.       

Due to its immense features and its endangered species, the royal turtle was issued by the King of Cambodia as a royal property and a national symbol for the reptile.  

- Appendix 6 of the Royal Decree No. NS/RKT/0305/149 dated March 21, 2005 on the Designation of Animals and Plants as National Symbols of the Kingdom of Cambodia
- គរុនិសិត្សអក្សរសាស្រ្តខ្មែរ ជំនាន់ទី២០
២០១៤-២០១៥, កិច្ចការស្រាវជ្រាវ សម្បត្តិនិមិត្តរូបនៃប្រទេសកម្ពុជា, វិទ្យាស្ថានជាតិអប់រំ, ក្រសួងអប់រំ យុវជន និងកីឡា