An environmental group has been accused of complicity in the decline of the critically endangered Siamese crocodile in Koh Kong province’s Areng Valley, mainly due to traps that are believed to have killed the last breeding-age female in the area.
In a statement released by the area’s Chong minority community and a number of environmental groups, Fauna and Flora International (FFI) Cambodia is accused of setting the traps in March 2013, together with the government’s Forestry Administration (FA), as part of an effort to relocate the crocodiles amid plans for a hydropower dam in the area.
The statement said that FFI left the area without relocating all of the crocodiles, leaving traps, one of which was found holding the skeleton of a crocodile in front of a den during a ceremony in March 2014.
“Although the sex of the crocodile could not be determined, local villagers believe this could have been the female crocodile spotted many times before in the area,” the statement said.
“Since the FFI/FA team furtively entered the valley, we are yet to spot any crocodile nests, indicating that the last crocodile (of breeding age) has died,” the statement said.
For years, FFI has been working on the rehabilitation of the dwindling population of the crocodile species found primarily in Cambodia. According to a report published by FFI in October, nests of Siamese crocodiles were found in the Areng River as recently as 2015.
Sarah Rakowski, communications manager for FFI’s headquarters in the U.K., said that while the group had been involved in efforts to relocate the crocodiles to ensure their safety, the traps had been under constant observation.
“The operation took place with the written consent and active participation of Areng villagers,” Ms. Rakowski said in an email.
“We are confident that no crocodiles were harmed as a result of this work,” she added. “Despite this, the community is right to be concerned about their crocodiles, which face a great many threats from habitat loss, poaching, and drowning in fishing gear.”