The animal was among five Royal Turtles — once feared extinct in the country — that laid more than 70 eggs.

Cambodia is home to several populations of endangered turtles, whose numbers have dwindled due to demand for them in Vietnam and China as delicacies and for use in traditional medicine.

Royal Turtles, formally classified as Southern River Terrapins, were pushed to the brink of extinction by hunting and sand mining, which destroys the banks where they lay their eggs.

The damage was so severe that in 2000 they were feared wiped out in Cambodia before nests were found and a careful conservation effort began.

On March 2, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced that four Royal Turtles bred in captivity — and one that was handed to its conservation centre in Cambodia’s southwestern Koh Kong province — successfully laid 71 eggs.

“It’s the first time that the captive female Royal Turtles have ever laid eggs since they were head-started at the centre in 2006,” said Som Sitha, a conservation project manager with the WCS. “The team will make artificial nests for incubation purposes or leave them as they are.”

Given the rarity of the species in the wild, successful egg laying is considered a massive win for Cambodia.

“We anticipate soon being able to produce large numbers of Royal Turtles in captivity and releasing them back into the wild,” said the WCS’s Steven Platt.

Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre — the kingdom’s only dedicated turtle conservation facility — currently holds 192 Royal Turtles, and plans to release 50 of them this year.

According to