Ensuring a safer future for Siamese crocodiles in Cambodia

A species presumed extinct

Just twenty years ago, Siamese crocodiles were presumed extinct in the wild and their future looked pretty bleak. Some conservation challenges can seem tough and when no natural populations of a species exist, the challenges may appear insurmountable. So when a Fauna & Flora International (FFI) team led an expedition to Cambodia’s remote and vast Cardamom mountains in 2000 and rediscovered several viable Siamese crocodile populations, it was a game-changing moment. 

Thankfully the Cambodian government moved swiftly to increase protection for the crocodiles by gazetting a 400,000ha area of forest in the central Cardamoms. A plan was established which included setting up a breeding programme and involving the local communities in providing wardens to patrol and protect the animals released into the wild. Now, twenty years on, an estimated 250 adult Siamese crocodiles are thought to survive in the wilds of the Cardamom Mountains.

A breeding programme is made possible

Through the generous donations of our supporters, PTES has been able to provide substantial funding over the past six years to help make this programme the success it’s been today. Now the fate of Siamese crocodiles is much more secure.

Since the breeding programme began, 111 purebred crocodiles have been released into the sanctuary waters. There is currently a team consisting of 31 community crocodile wardens who regularly patrol six sites of critical importance for the conservation of the species. They count animals, look for signs of breeding and also, crucially, any signs of threat so they can immediately be tackled.

Conservation ambassadors

One significant part of their jobs is act as conservation ambassadors. People in the community now have really positive attitudes towards the crocodiles. They feel they are greatly beneficial to their communities. This is because they recognise that when crocodile numbers are high, so are those of fish and turtle species. They also have an ancestral connection to these creatures. They are happy to live alongside them and the team takes children to help release captive bred animals into wild. This instills in them a sense of pride and ownership in the species. These factors are so important for the long term survival of Siamese crocodiles in the Cardamom Mountains.

Achieving milestones against the odds

During 2020, despite the dire circumstances around the globe, two key milestones have been achieved in the programme. In January, ten baby Siamese crocodiles were spotted in the wild and, in May, a nest containing 22 eggs was found. These are hopefully just the first of many. PTES is proud to have been a part of this wonderful success story.

Thank you for helping us fund this vital work to save Siamese crocodiles in Cambodia.

If you’d like to support other areas of our work, please donate or set up a direct debit here today.

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