By Mengey Eng
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| August 14, 2017
Koh Kong (August 15, 2017) – The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Fisheries Administration (FiA) announced today that the eggs of nine Siamese crocodiles have hatched at the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Center (KKRCC).
Listed on IUCN’s Red List as Critically Endangered, the global population of Siamese crocodiles is declining at an alarming rate. This species lives only in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. The total population is around 410 wild adults, of which 100-300 live in Cambodia, making it the most important country for the conservation of this species.
“I am so excited to see these hatchlings: It is the first time I have taken care of them since arriving the center,” said Ms. Tun Sarorn, caretaker of Royal turtles and Siamese crocodiles at the KKRCC. ”Before seeing them, I was surprised to hear their voices from inside the eggs. It was amazing, and I felt so happy because I realized they are coming out. I will feed them all in the next few days with small fish and frogs.”
On June 28, 2017, a nest containing 19 Siamese crocodile eggs was found in the Sre Ambel District of Koh Kong Province. At the time, conservationists from FiA, WCS and local communities were searching for signs of wild crocodiles in the area. The nest was collected when discovered so it could not be poached or predated. Ultimately, the eggs were moved to the KKRCC where they were protected for six weeks.
“Finding the first nest in over 10 years on the Sre Ambel is encouraging as it indicates they are still there and reproducing,” said Lonnie McCaskill, Global Crocodile Expert and WCS’s Assistant Director of Prospect Park Zoo.
KKFCC is a new purpose-built reptile breeding and conservation center in Mondul Seima District of Koh Kong Province. It represents a joint effort between FiA and WCS to conserve reptile species, including Critically Endangered Royal turtles and Siamese crocodiles. Hatchlings from protected nests are taken into captivity where they are raised until they are several years old, at which time they have a better chance of surviving in the wild.
“These hatchlings mark a good start for the KKRCC that is aimed at breeding reptile species in the future, and also very good news for Siamese crocodile conservation in Cambodia because their wild numbers are declining,” said Som Sitha, WCS’s Technical Advisor for the Sre Ambel Conservation Project.
The hatchlings will be kept at the KKRCC for the next few years until they are large enough to survive in the wild. At that time, they will be released.
“We will take care of these hatchlings until they are able to survive in nature on their own. We will then release some to the wild, and others will be kept for breeding,” Sitha said.
The Siamese crocodile faces many threats to their survival. In Cambodia, threats include illegal hunting of adults and hatchlings, and collecting of eggs to supply crocodile farms in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand, especially during the last two decades. Other threats are habitat degradation, decrease of natural food supply, and weak law enforcement.
Ouk Vibol, Director of Fisheries Conservation Department of Fisheries Administration said, “I am so excited about these hatchlings because Siamese crocodiles are Critically Endangered, and we can increase their wild numbers. They need more protection to conserve them from extinction. FiA has been working with WCS to conserve this species over the past years through various activities, including habitat and nest protection, as well as awareness raising. I would like to thank and encourage all stakeholders to help conserve this important species by not hunting, collecting eggs, and destroying its habitat,” he added.
WCS would like to thank Wildlife Reserve Singapore for providing financial support to the project.
WCS works to save turtles and tortoises around the world. In 2012, WCS launched an organization-wide program to revive some of the most endangered turtle and tortoise species. Efforts include breeding programs at WCS’s zoos in New York, head start programs abroad, and working with governments and communities to save species on the brink of extinction.