WCS released pics and video today showing critically endangered Siamese crocodile hatchlings (Crocodylus siamensis) – among the world’s most endangered crocodile species – swimming in a natural lake in Sre Ambel district of Koh Kong Province, Cambodia.

The images were taken by a patrol from WCS’s Crocodile Nest Protection Team working in collaboration with the Fisheries Administration and Koh Kong Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.

The team estimates 15 hatchlings, each around 30 centimeters long, swimming in the lake, part of a natural wetland that serves as an important refuge for juvenile Siamese crocodiles. The team noted that due to low rainfall this year, the wetlands are unseasonably shallow providing less shelter then in previous years.

The Siamese crocodile is listed as 'Critically Endangered' on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Once found throughout Southeast Asia, today it is restricted to mainly Cambodia with perhaps 500 or fewer individuals remaining there. Remnant populations also occur in Laos and Indonesia; it almost extinct in Thailand and Viet Nam.

Siamese crocodiles face many threats including habitat loss and illegal hunting of adults, and collecting of hatchlings and eggs to supply crocodile farms in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand.

WCS’s employs a multi-pronged approach to save Siamese crocodiles from extinction. Crocodile nests are protected by former hunters hired to search for and safeguard them. Law enforcement by a joint patrol team consisting of officers from the Fisheries Administration and local community members remove any illegal fishing gear that might entangle wild crocodiles, and stop habitat destruction. Education and awareness raising in local communities through regular meetings about the species conservation is critical, along with livelihood improvement. The project provides alternative livelihood options to improve community family income through aquaculture practice and to ensure that they are not overfishing at crocodile wetlands. Lastly, head-starting of hatchlings improves their survival rate once released back into the wild.