Friday, 19 July 2019

In the remote Cambodian jungles, we made sure rare Siamese crocodiles would have enough food


JULY 11, 2019

by Paul Mcinerney, The Conversation
For nine hours, my colleague Michael Shackleton and I held onto our scooters for dear life while being slapped in the face by spiked jungle plants in the mountains of Cambodia. We only disembarked either to help push a scooter up a slippery jungle path or to stop it from sliding down one.
With our gear loaded up on nine scooters—200 metres of fishing nets, two inflatable kayaks, food for five days, hammocks, preservation gear for collection of DNA, and other assorted scientific instruments—we at last arrived at one of the few remaining sites known to harbour the critically endangered Siamese crocodiles.
The Siamese crocodile once lived in Southeast Asian freshwater rivers from Indonesia to Myanmar. But now, fewer than 1000 breeding individuals remain.
In fact, during the 1990s the species was thought to be completely extinct in the wild. Then, in 2000, scientists from Fauna and Flora International found a tiny population in the remote Cardamom Mountains region of Cambodia.
We travelled to this remote wilderness in 2017 to determine habitat suitability for the reintroduction of captive-bred juvenile Siamese crocodiles. We wanted to understand the food web there to see whether it contains enough fish to sustain the young crocs.
Our journey would not have been possible without the help of Community Crocodile Wardens—local community members who patrol the jungle sanctuaries for threats and record crocodile presence. Wardens also conduct crocodile surveys further afield to discover new populations or to identify new areas of potential suitable crocodile habitat for juvenile releases.

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