Posted on 18 December 2006
Lao PDR is home to a unique species of freshwater crocodile, the Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis), but urgent action is necessary to prevent the loss of this species from its natural range in Southeast Asia.
Lao PDR is home to a unique species of freshwater crocodile, the Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis), but urgent action is necessary to prevent the loss of this species from its natural range in Southeast Asia. Historically, Siamese crocodile lived in the rivers and wetlands throughout the Lower Mekong Basin of Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, but wild crocodile populations in these countries have been declining due to loss of habitat, hunting pressure, and collection of individuals for crocodile farms.
Unfortunately there is little information available on the current status of wild crocodile populations and critical habitats. A recent survey in 2005 by the Wildlife Conservation Society provided important information on the state of freshwater crocodiles in the provinces of Savannakhet, Salavan, and Attapeu. The survey indicates that wetland habitat in Savannakhet represents some of the most important nesting sites for Siamese crocodile in Lao PDR.
On 19 September 2006, a crocodile conservation workshop was organized by the WWF Community Fisheries Project (ComFish)
and hosted by the District Agriculture and Forestry Extension Office (DAFO) of Champhon District. Participants included representatives from provincial and district government agencies, as well as representatives from 14 villages in Savannakhet.
The objective of the workshop was to follow up on the recommendations from the 2005 crocodile survey, in order to facilitate group discussion on the current state of wetland habitat and threats to crocodile populations in Savannakhet province. The workshop included two days of field surveys to observe wetland habitat with existing crocodile populations.
At one of the wetland sites visited the survey team discovered crocodile dung, adding another location in Lao PDR confirmed to have adult crocodiles.
In November 2006, further surveys by the ComFish Project in Xaibouli District provided information on community management of wetland habitats that support crocodile populations. The crocodile photograph accompanying this article is from a sacred wetland where community management is based upon merit making and animist belief systems.
Continued activities are being planned for Savannakhet to strengthen wetland management capacity and crocodile conservation efforts while taking into consideration the livelihoods of local people around these wetlands.
For more information, please contact: Roger Mollot