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Hatchlings of Endangered Crocodile Species Found in Cambodia

In this image released by Cambodian Environment Ministry and WWF, a Siamese crocodile swims in Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary of Cambodia's Eastern Plains, Mondulkiri province, Cambodia, on Sept. 13, 2021. (Cambodian Environment Ministry and WWF via AP)

Eight hatchlings from one of the world’s rarest crocodile species have been found in a wildlife sanctuary in eastern Cambodia, raising hopes for its continuing survival in the wild.

Conservationists found the baby Siamese crocodiles earlier this month in a river in the Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia's Environment Ministry and the World Wildlife Fund said Tuesday.

The team found the young reptiles after spending four days scouring habitat sites where months earlier they had discovered footprints and dung.

The species was once widespread across Southeast Asia but is now listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. It had all but disappeared by the 1990s due to a combination of factors including poaching, habitat destruction and cross-breeding with other crocodile species.

The government and WWF have jointly been searching for photographic evidence of a breeding population in the Srepok sanctuary without success for more than a decade, the wildlife organization said in a statement.

Environment Minister Say Samal hailed the discovery as “such rewarding news,” while Milou Groenenberg of WWF called it “a significant finding for the species in Cambodia and globally.”

The statement said the area is being guarded by Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary rangers.

It’s believed only about 400 Siamese crocodiles remain in the wild, with most of them in Cambodia. In 2017, wildlife researchers found six eggs in Sre Ambel District in the southern province of Koh Kong as they were exploring for tracks, signs and dung of the reptile.