Endangered crocodiles hatched in Cambodia
Thursday, June 10 2010 @ 06:20 PM EDT
Contributed by: jkr
Conservationists in Cambodia are celebrating the hatching of a clutch of eggs from one of the world's most critically endangered animals.
Thirteen baby Siamese crocodiles crawled out of their shells over the weekend in a remote part of the Cardamom Mountains in southwestern Cambodia, following a weeks long vigil by researchers who found them in the jungle.
Experts believe as few as 250 Siamese crocodiles are left in the wild, almost all of them in Cambodia but with a few spread among Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam and possibly Thailand.
The operation to protect and hatch the eggs was mounted by United Kingdom-based Fauna and Flora International, for whom conservation of this once-abundant species is a key program.
"Every nest counts," program manager Adam Starr told Associated Press Television News. "To be able to find a nest is a very big success story, to be able to hatch eggs properly is an even bigger success story."
The nest, with 22 eggs inside, was discovered in the isolated Areng Valley. Fauna and Flora International volunteers removed 15 of them to a safe site and incubated them in a compost heap to replicate the original nest. They left seven behind because they appeared to be unfertilized.
A round-the-clock guard was mounted to keep away predators like monitor lizards. Last weekend the crocodiles began calling from inside the shells, a sure sign they were about to hatch.
Within hours 10 emerged — and a further surprise was in store. Three of the eggs left behind at the original nest also hatched. A field co-ordinator, Sam Han, discovered the squawking baby crocodiles when he went to recover a camera-trap from the site.
"When I first saw the baby crocodiles they stayed and swam together near the near site. They were looking for their mother," he said. He snapped a few photos of the hatchlings, their noses poking out of the water.
To cap the success, the camera-trap yielded two infrared shots of the mother crocodile returning to the nest.