Siamese crocodiles are critically endangered in the wild according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with just 250 still swimming the waterways of Southeast Asia. Their populations are threatened through habitat loss and degradation as well as poaching for farms, eggs and skins.
Ten Siamese crocodiles hatched at the Detroit Zoo during early June have moved to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in Florida where they an adult pair of Siamese crocodiles will foster these crocodiles preparing them for a return to the wild. These will be the first captive bred Siamese crocodiles reintroduced into their natural habitat. St. Augustine Alligator Farm are specialists in crocodile care and conservation which has led to them being part of the program.
Chief Life Sciences Officer for Detroit Zoo, Scott Carter said, “Our conservation efforts have led not only to the successful breeding of Siamese crocodiles but to the addition of zoo-born crocodiles to a critically small wild population – which hopefully will help save the species from extinction.”
The crocodiles born this year were from a clutch of 22 eggs laid in a soil and vegetation nest which the female created. Half were incubated at the zoos Holden Reptile Conservation Center which Carter explained means keepers, “are able to maintain temperature- and moisture-control parameters and simulate nest conditions found in the wild during the incubation period.” This leads to an increase in hatching success.
Keepers lead the others hatch naturally as they, “didn’t want to put all of [their] eggs in one basket, so to speak,” added Carter. Six of the eggs from the nest and five from the incubator were successful in hatching.
Detroit Zoo has been a successful participation in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for a number of years now. This co-operative breeding program which aims to create genetic diversity amongst the zoo population and to make it self-sustaining saw three Siamese crocodiles bred at the zoo in 2008 move to new homes.
Photo Credit: Detroit Zoo