Rare crocs found hiding in plain sight in Cambodia

Nov 18, 2009 By MICHAEL CASEY , AP Environmental Writer
In this photo taken Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009, a mixed breed of a Siamese and salt water crocodile is seen at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center in Phnom Tamao village, Takoe province, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Conservationists searching for one of the world's most endangered crocodiles have found dozens in an unlikely place, a wildlife rescue center in Cambodia. Retrieving DNA from 69 crocodiles housed at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, researchers said Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009, that they found nearly 50 percent were Siamese crocodiles which until recently were believed to have gone extinct in the wild. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

(AP) -- Conservationists searching for one of the world's most endangered crocodile species say they have found dozens of the reptiles lounging in plain sight - at a wildlife rescue center in Cambodia.

DNA taken from 69 housed in the moats of the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center showed nearly 50 percent were Siamese crocodiles, which until recently were believed to have become extinct in the wild, researchers said Wednesday.

"For the first time in Cambodia, we have a captive of animals that we know 100 percent are purebred Siamese crocodiles," said Adam Starr, who manages the Cambodian Crocodile Program, a joint effort between the government and & Flora International. The Washington, D.C.-based conservation group Wildlife Alliance also took part.

Once common throughout Southeast Asia, the Siamese crocodile or crocodylus Siamensis is locally extinct in 99 percent of the areas it once roamed and is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Much of the wild population was wiped out by habitat loss and poaching.

Those left in the wild - thought to be less than 250, with nearly all in Cambodia and the rest in Indonesia and Vietnam - face the new threat of hydropower dams being built in two of their three known habitats in the country.

Starr said the discovery of the captive population would give conservationists new options for breeding and reintroducing the crocodiles into the wild, most likely in places not affected by the dams. He said up to 60 crocodiles a year could be released into areas where they once thrived.

DNA analysis, which was done at Thailand's Kasetsart University, is necessary because it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between Siamese crocodiles and the hybrid crocodile species that are also housed at the center.

Nhek Ratanapech, director of the wildlife center, said he was surprised to learn that so many of the crocodiles turned out to be pure Siamese.

"Before we conducted the testing, we thought perhaps only three or four of them in the zoo were Siamese crocodiles," he said.

Siamese crocs are said to be a bit smaller at just under 10 feet (3.5 meters) than hybrids, and their snouts are shorter and wider.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Japan to redesign Antarctic whale hunt after UN court ruling

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Skin demand threatens Nigeria crocs

May 12, 2009

Business is booming at Ismail Dauda's crocodile tannery in northern Nigeria, but environmentalists fear soaring demand for skins could be driving the reptiles to extinction.

Dwarf crocodiles split into three species

Dec 12, 2008

You'd think that if scientists were to discover a new species, it would be in some remote, uncharted tropical forest, not a laboratory in New York. But a team from the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics ...

Recommended for you

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

3 hours ago

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

India's ancient mammals survived multiple pressures

23 hours ago

Most of the mammals that lived in India 200,000 years ago still roam the subcontinent today, in spite of two ice ages, a volcanic super-eruption and the arrival of people, a study reveals.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...