NEW YORK -- A team of conservationists led by the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have re-discovered the Siamese crocodile in Thailand (formally known as Siam), capturing the animal on film while surveying for tigers.The crocodile, estimated at seven feet, was photographed by a remote camera trap as it lumbered along a riverbank in an isolated forest near the Thai-Myanmar border. Except for a single animal that has lived in a park for years, scientists believed the Siamese crocodile was extinct in Thailand until this discovery.
"This is an extremely exciting find," said Dr. Antony Lynam, a Wildlife Conservation Society biologist who led the survey team. "We knew the area had the potential to support tigers, but had no idea we would find a Siamese crocodile."
A follow-up survey in the area by WCS conservationist Dr. Steve Platt revealed tracks from a smaller crocodile a few miles from where the first one was photographed. "With two crocodiles we have a population, albeit a small one," said Platt. "We're not sure it's a viable population, but it certainly is naturally protected by the lay of the land, and by tropical diseases that keep out a lot of would-be poachers."
Up until the early 1990s, Siamese crocodiles were thought to be extinct in the wild throughout its former range, which included Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia, along with Thailand. But recent wildlife surveys by WCS and other groups have revealed isolated populations living in Laos and Cambodia. However, WCS estimates that the total population numbers no more than a few hundred individuals, making it one of the most endangered crocodilians in the world.
The surveys were part of a training exercise by WCS and the Thailand Royal Forest Department, which included a team of 30 foresters, students and researchers studying wildlife in Kaeng Krachan National Park, Thailand's largest protected area. The training program was supported by WC
Contact: Stephen Sautner
Wildlife Conservation Society