"Extinct" Crocodile Claws Its Way Back to Survival

Conservationists searching for one of the world's most endangered crocodile species say they have found dozens of the reptiles lounging in plain sight at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center in Cambodia.

PHNOM PENH - Siamese crocodiles (Crocodylus siamensis) once ranged far and wide across South-east Asia, from Indonesia to Vietnam, Laos to Thailand. But habitat loss and poaching virtually wiped out the 10 foot long reptiles. Twenty years ago they were classified as effectively extinct in the wild.

That seemingly terminal news was partially offset in 2000 when researchers discovered several dozen of them in the south-west Cambodia. Experts now believe there are 250 Siamese crocodiles living in the wild in the region.


Now, an encouraging find has sparked new hope for the fate of the Siamese crocodile. DNA test results announced this month revealed that 35 of 69 crocodiles at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center outside Phnom Penh are purebred Siamese crocodiles, not hybrid animals as experts had feared.

This news means the species has a much better chance to claw its way back from the brink, says Adam Starr, who heads the crocodile program at Fauna & Flora International, a conservation organization. A proposed breeding and release program now stands a far greater chance of success.

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