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Southern River Terrapin, Endangered Turtle, Released Into Cambodia River (PHOTO/VIDEO)

Southern River Terrapin Turtle

First Posted: 01/18/12 06:16 PM ET Updated: 01/20/12 11:46 AM ET

Conservation groups are celebrating after an endangered turtle was successfully released into the wild in Cambodia this week.

The Southern River terrapin (Batagur affinis) was released into the Sre Ambel River after a special ceremony attended by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Singapore Embassy, the Cambodian Fisheries Administration's Conservation Department and other local officials, reports The Cambodia Herald.

The 75-pound female turtle, which has been fitted with a satellite tracking tag, is "one of the most endangered turtles on earth," according to a WCS press release.

The turtle is reportedly one of only 200 wild Southern River terrapins remaining in Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia. In the Sre Ambel River, estimates tally fewer than 10 nesting female turtles, explained PhysOrg.

The turtle was captured by local fishermen in 2011, but was voluntarily surrendered before it could reach black markets in China, said WCS.

With "some of the largest and most pristine" coastal mangrove forests in Southeast Asia, WCS officials believe the turtle has an "excellent chance of recovery" in Cambodia.

Wildlife Conservation Society's Brian D. Horne said in the press release, "By reducing the adult mortality of the Southern River terrapin, even by fractions -- as little as ten animals a year per population in this circumstance -- we can have immediate and long-term positive impacts on the remaining wild populations of this critically endangered species."

According to a 2011 report [pdf] from the Turtle Conservation Coalition, Batagur affinis is one of the 25 most endangered turtle species on the planet.

WCS explains that Cambodian poverty after the Khmer Rouge regime and Chinese demand for turtle meat meant "literally thousands" of Southern River Tarrapins were captured and exported from Cambodia.

Below, check out video and another image of the Southern River terrapin before its release. Images courtesy of Eleanor Briggs and Wildlife Conservation Society.

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Filed by James Gerken  |