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Siamese crocodile. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

Siamese crocodile. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

Siamese crocodile

Croc on the critical list


The Siamese crocodile is a medium-sized, freshwater species distinguished by a prominent bony crest at the back of its head. Siamese crocodiles were once widespread throughout much of mainland Southeast Asia in a range of wetland habitats including slow-moving rivers, lakes, marshes and swamps.

Regrettably, the species has now disappeared from 99% of its former range, and was widely feared to be extinct in the wild until its rediscovery during Fauna & Flora-led surveys in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains.

Today it remains one of the world’s most endangered reptiles.

Fascinating facts about Siamese crocodiles

    Siamese crocodile eggs. © Fauna & Flora

    Siamese crocodile eggs. © Fauna & Flora

    One dozen or two?

    Siamese crocodiles nests recorded in the wild contain 11 to 26 eggs.

    Secret lives

    Adult Siamese crocodiles construct burrows, but we don’t know why.

    Adult Siamese crocodile. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

    Adult Siamese crocodile. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

    Pleistocene predators

    Siamese crocodiles have been around for at least half a million years.

    Immune system

    Siamese crocodile blood has antimicrobial properties.

What do Siamese crocodiles eat?

Siamese crocodiles feed mainly on small animals including snakes, frogs and fish. They rarely tackle larger prey and are not a threat to humans.

Where do Siamese crocodiles live?

Siamese crocodiles were once widespread across Southeast Asia, but they have been reduced to small, fragmented populations in remote wetland areas of Cambodia, and possibly Indonesia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam. Siamese crocodiles now appear to be extinct in the wild in Vietnam, but a captive-bred population has been reintroduced into Cat Tien National Park, and similar initiatives have been attempted in Thailand.

Siamese croclet blessing. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

Siamese croclet blessing. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

Rathana, one of our first captive-bred Siamese crocodiles, receives a monk's blessing.

How many Siamese crocodiles are left in the wild?

No one knows exactly how many wild Siamese crocodiles remain alive today. The most recent estimate for Cambodia, their main stronghold, is around 400 individuals. Most of the estimated one million ‘Siamese’ crocodiles in captivity are actually hybrids and mongrels.

Why are Siamese crocodiles threatened with extinction?

The decline of the Siamese crocodile began with competition from rice farmers for its wetland habitat, but it was the explosion in commercial hunting and large-scale farming in the 1950s – to supply the international crocodile skin trade – that drove the species to the brink of extinction.

Siamese crocodiles produce fine, soft leather and are easy to breed in captivity. Most wild-caught individuals have been hybridised with other crocodile species, compromising the genetic purity of the vast majority of captive stock as well as severely depleting the wild population.

Illegal collection of wild crocodiles continues to pose a threat to the species’ survival, but it is also under serious pressure from poaching, habitat loss, accidental entanglement in fishing gear, and the construction of hydroelectric dams.

Siamese crocodile release, Cambodia. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

Siamese crocodile release, Cambodia. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

A captive-bred Siamese crocodile is released into the river, another vital addition to the wild population of this critically endangered reptile.

How can we help save Siamese crocodiles?

Most recent conservation work on behalf of the species has focused on Cambodia, which harbours the largest known surviving populations. 

Since rediscovering the Siamese crocodile in the Cardamom Mountains, Fauna & Flora has worked closely with the Cambodian government’s forestry department and local communities to safeguard the remaining wild crocodiles and their habitat, and to boost the wild population. 

Some communities in the Cardamom Mountains consider Siamese crocodiles to be sacred and have protected them for generations. Fauna & Flora is working with the indigenous Khmer Dauem to improve their food security, their business acumen and their capacity to conserve their cultural heritage, including the reptiles that they revere. 

Fauna & Flora has helped establish community-led monitoring and anti-poaching activities at key breeding sites. We have also advocated for stricter controls over crocodile farming and trade. We worked with local and international partners to develop Cambodia’s first Siamese crocodile conservation breeding programme and, in 2012, helped launch a national reintroduction programme to reinforce the wild population. The programme has already led to the release of almost two hundred pure-bred Siamese crocodiles at suitable sites. 

Siamese crocodile. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

Saving crocodiles together

We are working with our partners to protect and increase Siamese crocodile populations at key sites across Cambodia. Please support our efforts to bring this critically endangered reptile back from the brink.

Donate today

Siamese crocodile. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora