Veal Veng Marsh, where the wild hatchlings were spotted, contains the largest known colony of Siamese crocodiles in Cambodia. This unique wetland is also home to some of Cambodia’s most impoverished – and, until recently, remotest – communities, whose people have traditionally revered the crocodiles as sacred animals, but who have previously struggled to feed their families for up to half the year.
For the past two decades, FFI has worked closely with community leaders and local partners to improve the livelihoods of these people in ways that are sustainable, culturally appropriate and compatible with the conservation of Siamese crocodiles and other threatened biodiversity.
After being encouraged to embrace low-cost, organic techniques aimed at increasing and diversifying food production on existing farmland, villagers saw rice yields triple. They also began to earn money from cooperative sales of renewable forest products, including cardamoms.
In turn, the communities themselves have proactively defended Siamese crocodiles and their habitat; as early as 2003 – on their own initiative – they began forming joint forest patrols with government rangers, in order to combat crocodile collectors, poachers and illegal loggers.
In recent years, however, there has been an influx of people from other parts of Cambodia, and even overseas, laying claim to land and adding to the pressure on the crocodiles and their wetland home.