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Endangered crocs rescued

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Wildlife experts rescue a Siamese crocodile.

Wldlife conservation experts are working to rescue a colony of endangered Siamese crocodiles in Koh Kong province, as the natural habitat is increasingly threatened by the development of the nearby Stung Atay hydro-dam.

Adam Starr, project manager for the joint-effort Cambodian Crocodile Conservation Project and Flora Fauna International, said the colony of about 15 crocodiles was discovered through biological surveys with help from the Forestry Administration and local communities in the nearby O’Som Village over the past decade.

“They are a critically endangered species and we believe there are only about 250 left in the wild, period. To lose 15 out of 250 is a significant loss globally,” he said yesterday.

“The head of the river is only about 150 metres from the dam construction site....  Now is the time to get them out of there because they are starting to divert water and that particular section of the river will be gone, with no habitat left for the crocodiles. They could die from stress or be poached.”

The initial rescue mission began on March 21 when members of the CCCP and the Forestry Administration managed to relocate one crocodile by helicopter, at a cost of $4,000, to a habitat 20 kilometres away.

They were helped by members of the Wildlife Rescue Unit from Australia Zoo, who brought traps designed by the late wildlife expert Steve Irwin. “It is a matter of setting traps, leaving them there and monitoring them daily. In four weeks we only got one crocodile and it’s pouring down rain there. So we’re taking a break for Khmer New Year,” Starr said.

He added that his team will look at more aggressive options, such as using netting and live bait.

Sam Han, Forestry Administration project officer at the CCCP, said yesterday that the Siamese crocodiles in Cambodia live almost exclusively in the Cardamom Mountains and until recently had been relatively undisturbed.

“Because the government is developing the Stung Atay dam at the border of two provinces, the lives of the crocodiles are affected,” he said.

“We are securing these crocodiles with the aim of conserving them to avoid further endangering them in the future.”

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