The Suoi Tien theme park in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday gifted a rare turtle to its native country of Cambodia where it is treasured as a royal asset.
The female turtle of the terrapin (Batagur affinis) species was given to representatives of Cambodia's fisheries authorities.
The gift took place after experts from Vietnam's first wildlife NGO, Education for Nature, visited the park in 2010 and found that the turtle belongs to the endangered species.
It was bought by the park in 1980 from a farmer. It weighed about two kilograms then and has grown into more than 45 kilograms now.
The turtle will be first transferred to a Batagur affinis conservation project at the Sre Ambel River in the southwest of Cambodia, where nests are monitored, and young turtles will be protected for several years before being returned to nature, tagged with tracking devices.
Tran Viet Hung, deputy director of the NGO, said in a press release "the return of a female member still in its productive age can hopefully increase the severely declining population of the species in Cambodia."
Strong protection measures have been taken after the species was thought to have disappeared in Cambodia and then a small number of them were discovered at the river. King Norodom Sihamoni, the King of Cambodia since 2004, personally ordered their protection.
The turtle is found in fresh water rivers around mangrove forests in Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia.
It, along with many Asian turtles are in danger because of the thriving trade in animals for food and traditional medicine. The animal's rarity adds to its value and fuels the trade.
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