World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and Fauna & Flora International (FFI) are stepping up breeding activities in Cambodia’s Siamese crocodile sanctuaries.

They are also working closely with local communities to ensure the sanctuaries are protected, as the remaining crocodile population, as well as the nests of other endangered species, is threatened by poaching and habitat loss.

WWF Cambodia country director Seng Teak said on January 18 that Siamese crocodiles (crocodylus siamensis) are one of the most endangered species on the planet. It is estimated that there are only about 1,000 Siamese crocodiles in the wild, with the species found in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

He noted that in Cambodia, the rare reptiles are present in the Cardamom Mountains, the Mekong River in Kratie province and the Sre Pok River in Mondulkiri province. It is estimated that Cambodia’s natural sanctuaries are home to around 400 Siamese crocodiles.

“Cambodia has the largest population of Siamese crocodiles in the world,” he said.

According to Teak, despite a relatively high number of crocodiles, they are under threat from hunting, the collection of their eggs, habitat loss and changes in the flow of water, due to dams in the Upper Mekong River.

In response to these threats, the WWF and FFI, along with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Environment, have joined forces to conserve and rehabilitate as many Siamese crocodiles as possible.

The work, which began in 2000, includes joint conservation strategies to protect the crocodiles’ habitat, their nests and their young.

“We are now strengthening the protection of all of the areas where Siamese crocodiles are present and increasing our breeding and release programmes. We have also attracted the participation of local communities, who patrol the protected areas,” said Teak.

In its January 16 social media post, FFI Cambodia explained that the crocodiles are valuable and worth protecting because of the important role they play in ecosystems, as well as their cultural and spiritual value to many communities in Cambodia.

The post highlighted the presence of the crocodiles in carvings at the Angkor Wat Temple as a reflection of the reptiles’ long-standing place in Khmer culture.

“We are focusing on the conservation of the Siamese crocodile and its habitat. We have established several sanctuaries, with the agreement and participation of local communities. The local people play an active part in patrolling and protecting their habitat,” it added.

According to the organisation, its specialists conduct regular surveys to monitor the number of remaining crocodiles and their nests, as well as the threats that are contributing to their declining population.

The mission of FFI Cambodia is to ensure the presence of Siamese crocodiles for future generations.