Like sharks, most crocodiles tend to be given a bad press. But that notoriety does at least bring these much-maligned and misunderstood animals into the public consciousness. From alligators in the Everglades to Australia’s saltwater crocs, stories abound of narrow escapes from man-eating monsters.
Spare a thought for the Siamese crocodile. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, there is only one thing in life worse than being misrepresented, and that is not being represented at all. This little-known, unheralded reptile is neither monstrous nor man-eating. And in this case the only noteworthy narrow escape has been on the part of the crocodile. From the jaws of extinction.
Siamese crocodiles are critically endangered. Once widespread across a variety of wetland habitats in Southeast Asia, this species has now disappeared from 99% of its former range. It was actually feared to be extinct in the wild until its rediscovery during a series of surveys in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains led by Fauna & Flora International (FFI).
It was no accident that the crocodiles in this remote region had escaped the fate of so many of their kind. The local Indigenous minorities had strong respect and affection for them, and reverence for these reptiles meant that it was taboo to kill or hurt them.
Regrettably, the Siamese crocodile has not been afforded that level of care in the wider world. Today it remains one of the world’s rarest reptiles, reduced to small, fragmented populations in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam.