There are few things more rare than the Siamese crocodile in Cambodia, but conservationist Sam Han discovered he is one of an even smaller class on Friday afternoon.
Mr Han has spent the past five years helping to save an estimated 250 Siamese crocodiles as the national field coordinator for the Cambodian Crocodile Conservation Program. For his effort, he has been named one of the eight 2009 Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund Conservation Heroes.
“I’m surprised and happy,” he said at a surprise party held to honor his achievement. “I’m very excited, but it is unexpected.”
To save the critically endangered species, Mr Han said the program researches and studies a number of factors such as where the crocodiles live during the wet and dry seasons, migration and habitat information.
According to Flora and Fauna International, which supports the program with the Cambodian Forestry Administration, Siamese crocodiles are 99 percent extinct from their original habitat range. They were only rediscovered in Cambodia in 2000 and the crocodiles are now concentrated in the Cardamom Mountains.
Although he was recognized for his dedication to the crocodiles, Mr Han said when he first transferred from the forestry administration to the crocodile project, he was not so interested in the reptiles. But over time, he said he developed a deep interest in the creatures and in preserving the species.