Once common in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia, the number of Siamese crocodiles has plummeted over the past fifty years. The causes are manifold: overfishing, intensification of agriculture, and destruction of the crocodile’s natural habitat, in part through climate change. Reproduction can also be a problem: in some places, nests are sterile and populations of young crocodiles practically non-existent.
Population recovery for an endangered species
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is conducting a conservation project to protect the species and to promote its population recovery. It is located in the Xe Champhone Wetlands in Savannakhet Province, home to the largest number of Siamese crocodiles in Laos.
In this project, crocodile eggs are collected from the wild. After artificial incubation, the crocodiles are reared in captivity for about two years, until they reach a size of 75-100 cm. They are then reintroduced into the wetlands, which are managed by community members from several villages and protected from hunting. The project has successfully incubated, reared, and released 65 crocodiles since 2008.
“My visit to Xe Champhone allowed me to see that this conservation project has been a success, thanks both to WCS’s in-depth knowledge of the wetlands and to the commitment of local communities, NGOs and provincial authorities, to prevent the extinction of the species. These unique wetlands are highly sensitive to the effects of climate change, which makes this type of project all the more relevant,” says Julie Gabet-Ouahioune, AFD’s Regional Director in Laos.
The Xe Champhone Wetlands are home to wide-ranging aquatic biodiversity in addition to the Siamese crocodile. They are also home to an endangered turtle species and several bird species that are likewise benefiting from the conservation efforts.
The project is being funded in part by the European Union through delegated funds of €5 million, as well as an AFD grant of €1.5 million.
Preserving all ecosystems and species
This initiative is part of a broader project seeking to improve the management of the Xe Champhone Wetlands and two other areas that stand out thanks to their rich biodiversity: Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park and Bolikhamxay Province.
The goal of the project is to preserve ecosystems and species by involving and helping empower communities through the development of businesses related to biodiversity conservation. WCS is also working with communities and experts from Laos and abroad, along with government support, to develop a participatory land-use planning framework adapted to wetlands. This framework will help increase income for communities while at the same time protecting the habitat of the Siamese crocodile.
The conservation project also includes a component for private stakeholders, with the aim of improving their compliance with the social and environmental standards they are required to meet. This will help reduce the impact of those stakeholders on biodiversity. Laotian authorities will also be provided support to develop their national policies and to strengthen the governance of protected areas in Laos.
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This project is carried out with the support of the European Union