Always smile at a crocodile

Cambodia is a crucial area for Siamese crocodile conservation. While the crocodile is a much-maligned creature in the western world and often seen as a terrifying man-eater, in Cambodia it is regarded as a spiritual animal, to be revered and honoured.

It is therefore not altogether surprising that the majority of the world’s remaining 250 wild Siamese crocodiles can be found in Cambodia, with the largest wild population found in the south-west of the country.

Despite this, Siamese crocodiles in Cambodia still face significant threats from habitat loss and poaching for their skins.

To help raise awareness and boost conservation of the Siamese crocodile, the Cambodian Crocodile Conservation Project (CCCP) recently set up a training session for monks and officials from the Association Buddhist for Environment (ABE) who are already involved in local community environmental education in the Koh Kong Province.

Siamese crocodile training with ABE monks Photo: Han/Ratana/FFI

The course was designed and delivered by Sam Han and Che Ratana from CCCP, and covered a range of topics from Siamese crocodile biology, behaviour and distribution to threats and conservation in Cambodia.

The workshop also looked at the cultural significance of Siamese crocodiles and their appearance in ancient Khmer folklore, and discussed how these beliefs vary around the world.

The monks were taken through the work that CCCP is doing to ensure the survival of the species, which includes research and monitoring (such as radio telemetry, camera trapping and nest surveys), as well as a breeding and reintroduction programme.

Siamese crocodile training Photo: FFI

Award winning crocodile conservation

The award-winning CCCP was established by Fauna & Flora International in partnership with the Forestry Administration and local communities to save these Critically Endangered crocodiles and their globally important wetlands, using scientific research and activities that achieve measurable outputs.

Currently, the greatest threat to Siamese crocodiles in Cambodia is hydro-electricity development. Since 2003, 14 large-scale hydro-power dams have been proposed, including five within the Cardamom Mountains, of which two directly threaten the O’Som and Areng Siamese crocodile breeding populations.

The CCCP has begun an ex situ breeding programme and is initiating mitigation planning which may involve translocating crocodiles to safe sites.

Phnom Tamao crocodile Photo: Ally Catterick/FFI