In this project, students were asked to choose a conservation issue in Cambodia of their choice and to write a conservation report for it. This can be a habitat/ecosystem or species. I decided to choose Siamese crocodile because it is now one of the critically endangered species, with only 300 variable wild individual worldwide. As Cambodia has the most purebred individuals, the conservation activities of this country can significantly affect the reintroductions of this species to its habitat, especially Vietnam and Thailand (and maybe Indonesia as well) where this species had become extinct.
Crocodylus Siamensis: Siamese Crocodile
Crocodylus Siamensis also known as Siamese crocodile is one of the four most threatened crocodile species in the world. Since 1982, Siamese crocodile became an endangered species, and in 1996, this species was accorded as the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List with the status of “Critically Endangered.” Currently, there is approximately 300 wild, adult Siamese crocodiles remain worldwide, which means that 99% had extinct from its initial population, mostly due to habitat loss and being hunted. This species has become extinct in two of its five native countries, Vietnam and Thailand. Even though the status of this species in Indonesia is unclear, there is a high probability that the species was extirpated. However there are a few of the adult populations in Laos, and the country with the most viable Siamese crocodile population is Cambodia, approximately less than 250 adult Siamese crocodiles.
Like other crocodile species, the Siamese crocodile has a large range within its ecological niche in term of food; it feeds on a wide variety of prey such as invertebrates, frogs, reptiles, birds and mammals, including carrion. This species, is an inhabitant of freshwater, including: slow-moving rivers and streams, lakes, seasonal oxbow lakes, marshes, and swamplands. As Siamese crocodiles is an apex predator within the freshwater ecosystem, especially in Cambodia, it also plays a role of a keystone species. Siamese crocodiles play an important role in maintaining the balance fish populations within the freshwater, its consumption on predatory fish allows small fish populations to increase. For Cambodians, those small fish populations are the primary food source for the local residents within the ecosystem.
This species is widespread in the wetlands and freshwater ecosystems in Southeast Asia, but due to habitat loss and commercial harvesting. Although, nearly all extinct, still around 60000 Siamese crocodiles are being commercially harvested to make leather products: bags, shoes, accessories, and decorations. For many countries, it is illegal to raise Siamese crocodiles without a license, and furthermore, it is also illegal to do any trades on the species. Countries such as the United States and nations of the European Unions banned the market of all Siamese crocodile-leather products, therefore, the main market for such products is only in the Asian countries.
Initially, in Cambodia, the decrease of the Siamese crocodile population started with human modification of wetlands and waterway. However, within this past few decades the population has drastically declined as the collection of eggs, young and adults Siamese crocodiles increase; which either use for illegal farming and raising of crocodiles or overseas trading. With the population of only 300 wild crocodiles left, there isn’t a lot of variation within the genetics of the species. Action such as hybrid-ing and farming crocodiles only worsen the situation because of hybrid crocodiles becoming feral and contaminating the wild stocks.