Australia Zoo’s crocodile research program extends beyond domestic rescues. The Australia Zoo Rescue Unit (AZRU) are also on-call for critical find and rescue missions throughout the world. Most recently, Flora and Fauna International (FFI) and the Cambodian Forestry Administration (FA) put out a call to the AZRU to catch and release many of the extremely endangered Siamese crocodiles in the Cardamom Mountains. These crocs had been losing their natural habitat due to the construction of a hydro dam by Chinese contractors in the area, and a group of the Siamese crocodiles were stranded between the dam’s construction and a 60m waterfall near the construction site in south-western Cambodia. On completion of the dam, the river feeding the waterfall was to be drained, leaving only a matter of time before the ancient species perished through loss of habitat.
After several years of planning and concern surrounding logistic issues, FFI contacted the AZRU to manage the capture and release of the endangered crocs from a 6m deep section of soon-to-be-drained river to a safer site more than 20km away.
Prior to the rescue, the AZRU team provided some much-needed training on crocodile capture and handling techniques to their counterparts at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Phnom Penh. After a 10 hour travel to the mountain village of O’Som, the AZRU began setting up several crocodile traps in the dam’s construction site, as well giving the FFI and FA rangers further education in the skills required to construct effective crocodile traps.
The AZRU were able to assist hands-on with the croc relocation and management thereof, as well as educate the local FFI and FA rangers with the techniques required to continue the relocation, helping save the Siamese crocodiles from extinction. The AZRU continue to be at the frontline for crocodilian capture and relocation missions and education throughout the world.
There is thought to be less than 250 Siamese crocodiles in the wild, and at one stage they were considered an extinct species. To find out more about the work Australia Zoo does in support of crocodiles visit: www.australiazoo.com.au/conservation/projects/wildlife-rescue/