Escaped Crocodiles Reported on Mekong

KIEN SVAY DISTRICT, Kandal Prov­ince – Rumors of crocodiles lurking in the Mekong River did not keep farmers in Kandal prov­ince’s Kien Svay district from wad­­ing waist-high into the river to clean cattle or wash soybeans Tuesday afternoon. They ap­peared unfazed by warnings is­sued this week by district authorities after crocodiles apparently were spotted in the area.

But children who gathered near the riverbank have become wary of the water since word of stray crocodiles reached their Phum Thom commune. They’re frightened to go swimming now, some of them said.

Kandal province officials in Lvea Em and Kien Svay districts have advised villagers to be extra careful when swimming and bath­ing in the river.

Soth Year, Kien Svay district gov­ernor, said a crocodile was seen as recently as Saturday in the district. In Lvea Em, Police Chief Boeng Khoeurn said villagers saw about 10 small crocodiles in the river on Sunday.

If there are any crocodiles in the Mekong, the reptiles are probably farm-raised escapees, said Boyd Simpson, a crocodile specialist working with Fauna and Flora International’s Cambo­dia office. Wild crocodiles in Cambodia are small in number and live in re­mote regions, he said.

Approximately 500 small crocodile farms are located throughout Cambodia, each with about a doz­en animals. Farmers often transport their crocodiles, typically sold for their skin and sometimes meat, along the Mekong. “There’s a good chance for them to escape,” Simpson said.

The number of Siamese crocodiles, which are Cambodia’s na­tive variety, still living in the wild has shrunk to about 300. The other variety of wild crocodiles in Cam­bodia are of the saltwater variety, which live in coastal regions.

“The Siamese crocodiles have had it pretty bad over the past few years,” Simpson said. The reptiles, which are facing extinction, have fallen victim to poachers as well as loss of natural habitat. “Real­ly now the only population left is in the Cardamom Mount­ains,” he said.

The crocodiles living in farms are a mix of saltwater, Siamese and Cuban varieties, Simpson said. Kien Svay and Lvea Em district officials said there were no crocodile farms within their districts, and that they were unsure of the crocodiles’ origins.

Even if there were Siamese cro­co­diles living near the villages that dot the Mekong, Simp­son said they are not con­sidered dangerous.

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