Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - More crocs needed to save species

More crocs needed to save species

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A rare Siamese crocodile captured on camera in the Cardamom mountains in 2008. Photo supplied

More crocs needed to save species

Cambodia’s most ancient reptile has become its most threatened in recent decades.

Once common throughout Indochina, the Siamese crocodile was declared extinct in the wild in 1992 before a few were discovered in the Cardamom Mountains 15 years ago.

With the population still tiny, the species will not survive for long without human help, say scientists.  

“The crocodile’s numbers are now so low that the species cannot recover without help. Very few nests are produced in the wild,” said Dr Jackson Frechette of Fauna and Flora International (FFI), whose Cambodian Crocodile Preservation Programme (CCCP) is a regional leader in captive breeding.

However, help might be on the way with the announcement that the Detroit Zoo is preparing to send 10 Siamese crocodile hatchlings to Cambodia for release into the wild.

“Our conservation efforts have led not only to the successful breeding of Siamese crocodiles but to the addition of zoo-born crocodiles to a critically small wild population – which hopefully will help save the species from extinction,” Scott Carter, chief life sciences officer at the Detroit Zoological Society, was quoted as saying in a statement.

The hatchlings were sent in July to the St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in Florida and were being fostered by an adult pair of Siamese crocodiles in preparation for release, the statement says.

At about two metres long for adults, the Siamese crocodile is relatively small and docile – roughly half the size of a typical adult male saltwater croc – and its diet consists of fish and snakes.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodia has most of the world’s remaining wild Siamese crocs. Afp

While other populations have since been discovered in neighbouring countries, the approximately 250 crocs in Cambodia represent up to 80 per cent of surviving individuals.

The overall amount of crocodiles in the region is on the upswing thanks to farming – descendants of purebred Siamese crocodiles number in the hundreds of thousands at farms throughout Southeast Asia.

However, most of the animals have been hybridised with saltwater and Cuban crocodiles.

Charlie Manolis, chief scientist at Wildlife Management International, said even 10 new animals in the wild could make a significant impact given the limited and possibly contaminated gene pool in the wild.

“In the overall scheme of things, the small number that could potentially go from Detroit Zoo to the wild in Cambodia may not sound like much.

But they could help genetic diversity, and it is no doubt important for zoos to be involved in in-situ programs in the countries where these species exist,” he said.  

FFI’s current conservation projects includes removing eggs from the wild to be incubated in a hatchery before being released. Croclets have also been bred at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Centre.

Since 2011, more than 50 animals bred in Cambodia have been released by FFI.

Frechette also said he was unaware of any plans to bring crocodiles in from abroad and no officials contacted this week at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries were aware of Detroit Zoo’s plan.

“As we understand, there are no definitive plans to bring zoo-bred Siamese crocodiles from overseas to Cambodia: it is only a possibility, and would not happen without prior approval from the Royal Government of Cambodia,” Frechette said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom’s domestic milk still cannot compete with imports

    Price competition and a lack of confidence by consumers are the main reasons the dairy market cannot compete with imports, said domestic milk producers. The large displays of imported fresh milk at the Kingdom’s supermarkets present a cumbersome obstacle for local producers, they said.

  • ‘Pesticide-laden cucumbers’ kill two, poison 150 in Banteay Meanchey

    At least two youths have died and 243 others are being treated for vomiting, diarrhoea, breathing difficulties, dizziness and muscle weakness after they ate cucumbers suspected to consist of pesticides. The incident happened on Saturday, said Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Ath Khem. He told The

  • Three dead, 13 injured in collapse at Siem Reap pagoda

    At least three people were killed and more than 10 others injured on Monday after a dining hall under construction collapsed at Prasat Kokchak pagoda in Kokchak commune, Siem Reap province. Provincial police chief Tith Narong said Military Police, soldiers and local volunteers had successfully recovered 16

  • China Unicom enters Cambodia

    China Unicom, the country’s largest telecoms operator, has expanded into Cambodia to build optical telecommunication pathways in the Kingdom as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Hong Kong-listed company officially opened its China Unicom (Cambodia) subsidiary on Monday to become the

  • Forest Harmony’s $18M luxury villas break ground in Kampot

    Local and French joint-venture Forest Harmony has broken ground on its $18 million “second-home” Luxury Holiday Villas project in Kampot province. Century 21 Mekong CEO and local shareholder of the project Chrek Soknim told The Post that the project will comprise 90 villa units covering 18ha on a 97

  • PP-SHV Expressway on track for completion in early 2023

    The construction of the $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, which broke ground at the end of March, is on track to be completed by early 2023, Ministry of Public Works and Transport spokesman Vasim Sorya said on Monday. The 190km high-speed highway linking the capital to the