PHNOM PENH, Sept. 13 (FN) — Conservationists said Tuesday that they have been transferring 206 of Cambodia's national reptilesknown as Royal Turtlesto a new purpose-built breeding and conservation center in southwestern Koh Kong province.

The new facility will be named the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre, said a joint statement released by the Cambodia's Fisheries Administration (FiA)) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-Cambodia.

The Royal Turtle, also known as Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis), is one of the world's most endangered freshwater turtles and is listed on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered.

The turtle was believed extinct in Cambodia until 2000 when a small population was re-discovered by FiA and WCS in the Sre Ambel River in Koh Kong province.

"With very few Royal Turtles left in the wild and many threats to their survival, Cambodia's national reptile is facing a high risk of extinction. By protecting nests and head starting the hatchlings, we are increasing the chances of survival for this important species for Cambodia," said Ouk Vibol, director of Fisheries Conservation Department of Fisheries Administration. "To further protect the species we've constructed a purpose-built center to give Royal Turtles the best start to life possible."

The Royal turtle is now facing threats to its very survival due to habitat loss caused by increased sand dredging, illegal clearance of flooded forest, and illegal fishing, the statement said, adding that recent increase in disturbance from dredging along the Sre Ambel River, the only place where the species is still found in Cambodia, is putting this species at great risk.

Ross Sinclair, Country Director of WCS-Cambodia Program, said the new Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre is a joint effort between FiA and WCS to save the Royal Turtles.