8 rare baby Siamese crocodiles found in Cambodia
Published: Sep 22, 2021 12:11 PM
Photo: CFP

Photo: CFP

Photo: CFP

Photo: CFP

A research team of the Cambodian Ministry of Environment (MoE) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has discovered eight hatchlings of the critically endangered Siamese crocodile in northeastern Mondulkiri province for the first time in over a decade, a joint statement said on Tuesday.

The discovery early this month was made at one of the search sites where Siamese crocodile dung and footprints had been collected during the dry season this year, the statement said, adding that the reptile hatchlings remain safe in their wild habitat under strict protection by the rangers of the Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary.

Minister of Environment Say Samal said the discovery highlights the importance of the Srepok wilderness area as a global hotspot of high potential for reversing biodiversity loss and for the restoration of globally significant wildlife.

"This exciting news also demonstrates the importance of the kingdom of Cambodia for the conservation of this extremely rare crocodile and other important species," he said. "Cambodia is home to unique natural resources, representing a true source of national pride for all Cambodians."

He said the Ministry of Environment stands ready to work with all international non-governmental organizations, community groups and other partners to protect and preserve Cambodia's natural forests and wildlife heritage for the long-term social and economic benefits of current and future generations.

The discovery constitutes the first photographic evidence of a Siamese crocodile breeding population after more than a decade of research efforts in the Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected area situated within the Eastern Plains Landscape.

"During this hatching season, the research team carries out regular field monitoring, and for this particular trip, we spent four nights scouting the crocodile habitat locations, from 7:00 p.m. until past midnight around 2:00 a.m. to observe the animal," said Sothea Bun, one of the research team members.

"Then, the exciting moment came when one of our team first spotted the eye-shine of crocodile hatchlings," he said.

Milou Groenenberg, WWF biodiversity research and monitoring manager, said this discovery is considered a breakthrough in the study of the species in Srepok as former reports of breeding consisted of unconfirmed reports from many years ago and never before was photographic evidence of hatchlings collected.

"We were previously not certain if the resident population still contained breeding pairs to date, nor if any nests existed and if clutches successfully hatched," she said. "The Srepok discovery indeed raises hope for Siamese crocodile conservation and survival in the wild, and is a significant finding for the species in Cambodia and globally."

Listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as critically endangered, the freshwater Siamese crocodile was once widespread across Southeast Asia, but disappeared from much of its range by the early 1990s.

Cambodia is a global stronghold for the species, with an estimate of 200-400 individuals remaining in the wild, it said, adding that the total global population does not exceed 1,000 mature individuals.

The key threats the Siamese crocodile faces are habitat loss and degradation, poaching fueled by the illegal wildlife trade and formerly to supply crocodile farms, hybridization with other crocodile species, and destructive illegal fishing methods, among others, the statement said.