PHNOM PENH, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's Royal Turtle, one of the world's most endangered animal, is facing extinction, with less than 10 left in the forest, due to habitat loss caused by increased sand dredging and illegal clearance of flooded forest, a conservationist group said on Monday.

The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said in a statement that for years, the small remaining population of Royal Turtles - perhaps numbering fewer than 10 - has been successfully protected from extinction by the Fisheries Administration (FA) in partnership with WCS.

"A recent increase in disturbance along the Sre Ambel River System in (southwestern) Koh Kong province, the only place the species is still found in Cambodia, is putting this species at great risk," the statement said.

The Royal Turtle has been listed on IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered, the highest threat level. It is one of the world's 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles. Until now, the species has been designated as Cambodia's National Reptile by a royal decree issued March 2005.

"This year our team has observed a decline in nesting of the Royal Turtle. We believe this is caused by increased sand dredging,  wood transportation along the nesting habitat, and illegal clearance of flooded forest disturbing the females during the breeding season," said In Hul, FA official and project coordinator.

The Royal Turtle was believed extinct in Cambodia until 2000 when a small population was rediscovered by FA and WCS in the Sre Ambel River.

"Urgent action is needed or the Royal Turtle will disappear forever," the statement said, adding that FA in partnership with WCS and local communities are working closely together to save the remaining population.