WILDLIFE organisation Conservation International (CI) said it will spend US$13,000 on security for its crocodile shelter in a bid to prevent poachers from harming the highly endangered reptiles.
"We will pay each villager $5 per night to stay at the shelter," said Seng Bunra, CI director in Cambodia.
"This is the biggest mountain crocodile shelter [our NGO] has," he said, adding that it was imperative to conservation efforts that the local community be involved in efforts to prevent poaching.
The crocodile shelter covers an area of approximately 10 square kilometres and is situated near O'Som commune in Veal Veng village, Pursat province.
Seng Bunra said the villagers will be paid annually and the program will be evaluated after the first year.
"Mountain crocodiles are nearly extinct, and we are lucky that Cambodia still has these kinds of endangered animals," he said, while urging the government to do more to support conservation efforts. "We want them to allocate areas for conservation of these animals," he said.
Numbers are dropping
According to the department of forest administration, there are some 250 mountain crocodiles left in Cambodia, spread across the country from the western Kravang mountain range to the northeastern Cambodian plateau.
The Siamese crocodile Crocodylus siamensis is one of the world's most critically endangered animals, and conservation groups estimate that fewer than 250 live in the wild - primarily in Cambodia.