Conservation Out of a Shell

September 1, 2011

Conservationists in Lao PDR help 20 rare Siamese crocodile hatchlings emerge from their shells at the Laos Zoo, where they will live until they are mature enough to be released back into the wetlands of Savannakhet Province.

A well-laid conservation plan has hatched in Lao PDR. To protect the wetlands of Savannakhet Province, conservationists begin with eggs, very rare reptilian eggs.

Faced with overhunting and habitat destruction, the critically endangered Siamese crocodile does not have many places to go. But the eggs of this species are finding themselves at the Laos Zoo. It was here where WCS recently helped 20 hatchlings emerge from their rubbery shells. The young crocs will not stay at the zoo long. In about two years, they will move on to new watery digs in the wild.

“We’re thrilled at the prospect of augmenting the wild population of Siamese crocodiles with a new batch of healthy juveniles,” said Project Coordinator Chris Hallam, the Conservation Planning Advisor for WCS’s Lao PDR program. “It’s a small but important step in helping to conserve a valuable part of the natural heritage of Lao PDR for the benefit of future generations.”

Since 2008, the Crocodile Resource Management Plan has used crocodile conservation as a means of protecting the larger landscape where the species occurs. This will be good for the crocs as well as Savannakhet’s people, whose livelihoods often rely on a healthy wetland ecosystem. "This integrated project promotes the conservation of an entire landscape by highlighting the critical connections between an endangered species and local livelihoods,” said Joe Walston, Director of WCS’s Asia program.

The project’s team members first conducted surveys of the reptiles and their wetland habitats, all the while encouraging local communities to participate in the effort. In the province’s river and swamps, they saw a small number of crocs and importantly for the endangered species, croc nests. The conservationists brought the eggs carrying our recent batch of hatchlings from the wild in order to ensure more of them would survive.

The baby reptiles will return to the wetlands once they are big and strong. By adulthood, they may grow up to 10 feet in length.

 For more information, see the press release.

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