Baby crocs offer hope for species
Specialists say only 250 of their kind left in wild
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Conservationists in Cambodia are celebrating the hatching of a clutch of eggs from one of the world’s most critically endangered animals.
Thirteen baby Siamese crocodiles crawled out of their shells last weekend in a remote part of the Cardamom Mountains in southwestern Cambodia, following a weekslong vigil by researchers who found the eggs in the jungle.
Specialists believe as few as 250 Siamese crocodiles are left in the wild, almost all of them in Cambodia but with a few spread between Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam, and possibly Thailand.
The operation to protect and hatch the eggs was mounted by Fauna & Flora International, a United Kingdom-based organization for whom conservation of this once-abundant species is a key program.
“Every nest counts,’’ Adam Starr, program manager, said. “To be able to find a nest is a very big success story. To be able to hatch eggs properly is an even bigger success story.’’
The nest, with 22 eggs inside, was discovered in the isolated Areng Valley. Fauna & Flora International volunteers moved 15 of them to a safe site and incubated them in a compost heap to replicate the original nest. They left seven behind because they appeared to be unfertilized.
Last weekend the crocodiles began calling from inside the shells, a sure sign they were about to hatch.
Within hours 10 emerged — and a further surprise was in store. Three of the eggs left behind at the original nest also hatched. A field coordinator, Sam Han, discovered the squawking baby crocodiles when he went to recover a camera trap from the site.
“When I first saw the baby crocodiles they stayed and swam together near the site. They were looking for their mother,’’ he said.