Lao, Vietnamese, German Cooperation Conserving Siamese Crocodile

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Lao-Vietnamese-German cooperation is currently initiating the creation of a new conservation area for the endangered Siamese Crocodile in Laos.

Based on a joint Memorandum of Understanding, the National University of Laos (NUoL), Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources (IEBR) in Hanoi (Vietnam), and the Cologne Zoo, Cologne (Germany), have been engaging in biodiversity research and conservation in Laos for six years.

Among the most spectacular discoveries by the working team led by NUoL’s senior official Assoc. Prof. Dr Sengdeuane Wayakone, IEBR’s representative Dr Truong Quang Nguyen, and Prof. Dr Thomas Ziegler (Cologne Zoo) was the rediscovery of the Siamese Crocodile (Crocodylussiamensis) in Khammuan province. The endangered crocodile species was believed to be already extinct in the province.

A small population of Siamese crocodiles was discovered in Khammuan’s Ban Soc lakes during recent field research by a team member, Dr Vinh Quang Luu from Hanoi, together with Mr Sisomphone Soudthichak from the provincial conservation authority in Khammuan in spring 2015. Since then, the international team has engaged in the creation of a new conservation area for the rediscovered population.

The Siamese crocodile is listed in the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered with decreasing population trends, and in the CITES Appendix I, which accords it the highest international protection status.

In Laos, the species is classified At Risk, the highest national threat ranking. The Siamese crocodile was abundant in some parts of Laos until at least the early 1900s. Small breeding populations still persist, but a severe decline in range and abundance has occurred over the past century and now the species is rare or locally extinct at many sites in Laos.

The recent rediscovery in Khammuan province highlights the special biodiversity value of Laos. Further research will be crucial for identifying existing populations of endangered wildlife and for establishing subsequent conservation measures.

The engagement of the Lao-Vietnamese-German team, funded by the Rufford Foundation and Cologne Zoo, finally led to the approval by Khammuan provincial authorities of a Species Conservation Area for the Siamese Crocodile. This was reported to Sengdeuane Wayakone, Sisomphone Soudthichak, Truong Quang Nguyen and Thomas Ziegler during a recent team meeting in Khammuan province this month. The newly established reserve is called Khammuan Siamese Crocodile Conservation Area Ban Soc.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sengdeuane Wayakone said The National University of Laos is very happy that we could help and contribute within the framework of our diverse international cooperation to create a new conservation area for endangered wildlife in our country.

Meanwhile, Dr Truong Quang Nguyen said In recent times of diversity decline and habitat degradation, which is in particular topical in Vietnam and Laos, it is important that we put together our expertise and efforts to improve the conservation of threatened wildlife and its habitat. There still remain a lot of research and conservation activities to be done.

But this was not the end of the story, according to Prof. Dr Thomas Ziegler, Cologne Zoo’s Biodiversity Research and Conservation Projects Coordinator for Vietnam and Laos as well as Regional Chairman of the IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group for Europe.

We already have started with Hanoi National University’s expert, Dr Minh D. Le, to genetically test captive crocodiles in Saigon and Hanoi Zoological Gardens in Vietnam as well as in th e Lao Zoo. Unfortunately, there are many hybrid individuals kept among farms and also in zoos, so it will be crucial to identify pure ones. This is a prerequisite for conservation breeding and subsequent restocking measures of captive individuals to the wild to support the last remaining, strongly diminished Siamese crocodile populations in nature. It further underlines the important role which zoos can play today in wildlife conservation, he said.

Acting President of the National University of Laos, Prof. Dr Somsy Gnophanxay, said This is a wonderful example of how research engagement and international cooperation can contribute to substantially improved species conservation in the tropics, where diversity is highest but also most severely threatened.

Source: Vientiane Times

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