Fauna and Flora International (FFI) lauded the success of the government’s Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) breeding and release programme, noting that Cambodia is now home to the world’s largest wild population of the critically endangered reptiles.

In a May 17 press release, the FFI said that through the programme, conducted in collaboration with several partner conservation organisations, Cambodia now has a wild population of around 300 of the species. It estimated the total global population at about 1,000.

The FFI added that the proud result reflected concerted efforts to increase the number of Siamese crocodiles in it natural habitats in Cambodia’s protected areas.

“The Siamese crocodile, one of Cambodia’s most endangered species and one of its most important wildlife symbols, is well protected and well preserved, thanks to the success of breeding and release programmes,” the statement added.

According to the FFI, the Cambodian Crocodile Conservation Project has been running in the Kingdom’s major crocodile sanctuaries for more than 20 years, with close cooperation between the Ministry of Environment; the Forestry Administration under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; and the FFI.

Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said that in order to increase the wild population, the ministry regularly released Siamese crocodiles into their natural habitat in protected areas.

He noted that in the past, the reptiles faced the threat of poaching, but now the ministry and its partner organisations regularly patrolled the protected areas.

“We have strengthened the protection of all of the conservation areas, and increased the number of crocodiles we release, so they can breed in the wild and establish a new population,” he said on May 17.

According to Pheaktra, while purebred Siamese crocodiles are released into the wild, the ministry has now found another location in Srepok in Mondulkiri province, where it will strengthen the population of the species in that area as well.

To date, the Cambodian Crocodile Conservation Project has released 146 captive-bred Siamese crocodiles, the majority of them in Koh Kong province, with some in neibouring Pursat. Another location, in Mondulkiri province, was recently identified as a potential release site.