The Siamese crocodile has had a mixed history. On the one hand, it plays a
vital part in the natural ecological balance of the tropical environment in
Cambodia. On the other, the crocodiles' population was so depleted by the
fashion industry's demand for skins that it was declared extinct in 1992.
In the third Saving Planet Earth celebrity expedition, Edith Bowman joins
reptile expert Jenny Daltry, who rediscovered a small remnant of the wild
population in the Cambodian jungle, to uncover the very human story behind
the attitudes of the local people to the crocodile.
She learns how a combination of community work and hi-tech science, funded
by Fauna & Flora International, is helping to save the species.
At a crocodile farm, Edith says: "I never thought that I could feel sympathy
for crocodiles. It's tragic to see any animal being treated like this. Even
worse – it's a trade purely driven by fashion," she comments.
Edith meets Boyd Simpson, from Fauna & Flora International, working with the
Cambodian wardens trying to locate, radio track and study the crocs. It's
not easy, as the animals that have survived years of persecution are, by
definition, very hard to find.
While Boyd takes some DNA, Edith wraps some tape round a crocodile's
snapping jaw. "This is slightly strange to be straddling a croc," she muses.
If it is found to be a pure Siamese croc, it could be the start of a new
breeding programme to build the wild population.
Holding a small baby croc in her hand, Edith says: "There are so few of the
Siamese crocodiles left in the world and they're kind of seen as the black
sheep of the endangered species. They're 65 million years old and they've
survived dinosaurs – yet it looks like they may not survive us. You have the
power to give them a second chance."
A £10 donation to the BBC Wildlife Fund could help Fauna & Flora
International fund a crocodile warden for a month.
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