Unbeknown to many people around the world, there are actually crocodiles in Cambodia as well as many other Southeast Asian Countries. Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia is home to the Siamese Crocodile as well as the well known Saltwater Crocodile.
The Siamese Crocodile
The Siamese Crocodile is a medium-sized freshwater crocodilian that can grow to over three meters in length. Most Siamese Crocodiles mainly eat fish and snakes as well as amphibians and other small animals. Not much is known about the behaviours of this animal as there are not many remaining in the wild, there are less than 10 locations around South East Asia.
Their historic locations were over most of Southeast Asia, unfortunately now this species is extinct from most traditional areas. Cambodia is one of the Siamese Crocodile strongholds.
It is guessed that there may be about 300 Siamese Crocodiles left free in the wild. most of these are in Cambodia. North in the Banteay Meanchey province, Cardamom Mountains area of Kampot and Kep, Kratie, and other places along the Mekong river have all reported crocodiles inhabiting these areas.
Their population is unfortunately so small due to the environment and habitat loss, this has a lot to do with hydroelectric dams that disrupt their travel up and down rivers as well as general habitat loss and scarce food resources due to the impact of humans.
Another reason for the Siamese Crocodiles low population numbers is actually due to a non-human influence. It is because of their more well-known cousins, the Saltwater Crocodile. They also have a low population number in the Indochina region. These two crocodiles fight for territory and also crossbreed creating a hybrid species.
With all of these factors involved, over the past 15 years, the number of Siamese Crocodile spotted in the wild and hatching of croc eggs in conservation parks has slowly increased. In 2009 in Phnom Tamao area around Phnom Penh, many crocodiles were found sunbathing on a bank in plain sight at a wildlife rescue.
There was found to be 69 crocodiles in the Phnom Tamao moat area, all of which were DNA tested and the results found that nearly half of the 69 crocodiles were 100% Siamese Crocodile. Earlier this year in June (2017) Conservationists found a rare Siamese Crocodile nest in the Koh Kong province area. The nest contained 19 eggs, 9 of which since have hatched and will be looked after at the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Center.
They will remain there until they are older and strong enough to be released into the wild. This was the first wild nest that the conservation team had found in the Koh Kong for nearly 6 years. So this was a massive win for the population rejuvenation of the Siamese Crocodile. There are many other great success stories to do with crocodiles in Cambodia and they are slowly becoming more frequent.
Another crocodile program exists in Cambodia which is possibly the most controversial and infamous. Named ‘Cambodia’s sickest tourist attraction’ by a British Tabloid, the Siem Reap Crocodile farm is making quite a name for itself. There are also other crocodile farms scattered around Cambodia but the one in Siem Reap is the most famous, if not infamous.
These farms can hold up to over 1000 crocodiles, they will be modelling for tourist photos and selfies while they wait to be eaten and their skins will usually be sent to France. Crocodile skins are a hugely profitable market when they can be sold to designer companies to make handbags or shoes.
Crocodile farming has been a thing in Cambodia since the 1990’s, however back then the farms were smaller as well as fewer and far between. They used to sell most crocodiles to Vietnam and Thailand. Now, however, the farms are much bigger and the crocs are being sent overseas for big money.
All in all Crocodiles in Cambodia are beginning to find their foothold and begin to repopulate, this is a great achievement for conservationists in the country and is also a great catalyst for surrounding South East Asian countries.