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Activist calls for Areng crocodile preservation in Koh Kong’s Areng area

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A conservationist examines 19 eggs laid by a critically endangered Areng crocodile along a river in Koh Kong province’s Areng area in 2017. Wildlife Conservation Society

Activist calls for Areng crocodile preservation in Koh Kong’s Areng area

Mother Nature Cambodia environmental activists will submit a proposal to the Ministry of Environment and Fauna & Flora International (FFI), requesting for releasing Areng crocodiles in the Areng area of Chumnap commune, Thma Bang district, Koh Kong province for preservation purpose.

The Areng area is such a suitable natural habitat for preservation of Areng crocodiles. Also, the species is part of local ethnic minorities’ belief and customs.

However, the police will wait for the ministry’s decision on the proposal before taking any further action.

Environmental activist Vann Dane said she is preparing the documents and videos related to Areng crocodile to be submitted to the Ministry of Environment and FFI.

Previously, Areng crocodiles were found in Southeast Asia, but they have now become an endangered species in the region. However, Cambodia still has a small number of the species in some areas as the reptile is now facing threat from hunters, lost of habitant and climate change, Dane said.

“We are concerned over the possible extinction of Areng crocodiles because this kind of reptile is scarce. The Areng area is perfectly suitable as its habitat. The ministry and FFI have released Areng crocodiles in other areas, but I do not know where exactly they are,” Dane said.

An ethnic Bunong living in the Chumnap commune Khen Sokha said there are only few Areng crocodiles in the river, pond, and canal. This resulted from the loss of wetlands and the ministry releasing Areng crocodiles into other different areas.

The Areng crocodile is an animal which is part of the ethnic minorities’ belief and tradition. The villagers believed that if there are any Areng crocodiles living in a village, families in the village will have prosperity and happiness.

“Areng crocodiles are gentle as they have never caused any harm to humans. Previously, the villages had many Areng crocodiles in their vicinity, so the villagers were happy.

“However, only several Areng crocodiles remain in the area and they are not reproducing offspring. Therefore, I would like to appeal to the ministry to release the Areng crocodiles in the Areng area,” said Sokha.

The villagers of ethnic minorities have always celebrated a ceremony to protect the crocodiles’ eggs in the laying eggs season.

“The ceremony is aimed at preventing outsiders from causing any harm to the offspring. In short, we look after the Areng crocodile as if they are a domestic animal. However, we have not spotted any Areng crocodile despite walking one whole day in the Areng area,” said Sokha.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said on Monday that he cannot give any response over the plan of the environmental activists. However, he will wait to have a look at the actual proposal.

“I cannot give any comments over this case. However, we will wait to examine the proposal. Then we will make an evaluation and decide on the proposal request,” Pheaktra said.

FFI representatives could not be reached for comment over this case on Monday.