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Aerial view of a river in Cambodia

Crocodile conservation in the Cardamom Mountains

Two species living in balance with one another, for mutual benefit and survival.

Symbiotic relationships have fascinated environmentalists for years. If one is threatened, the other feels it rapidly. As communities are pressured into losing their land to intensive industries like logging, thousands of wildlife species are feeling the strain too. When this happens, we all lose out. It’s difficult to comprehend just how closely our survival is directly related to the preservation of key species.

These symbiotic relationships are happening all around us. The local Khmer Deaum people of the Cardamom Mountains know this better than anyone. Here, everything is from the forest.

A river winds through lush tropical rainforest in the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia.

A river winds through lush tropical rainforest in the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia.

The Kingdom of Wonder, as Cambodia is affectionately known, is a global biodiversity hotspot. But like many places, it is experiencing the challenge of developing its economy while protecting its natural resources. Indigenous peoples’ symbiotic relationship with the forest is increasingly under threat as a result. Illegal logging, competition for resources and unsustainable farming means that customary practices, beliefs and links to the forest are all being lost.

Cool Earth is working alongside partner organisation Fauna & Flora International to address just that. By partnering conservation and livelihoods projects with indigenous communities, local people can earn a living whilst protecting their forest.

Juvenile crocodile being held in the hand of a warden.

Siamese crocodile are raised in captivity nearby before being released into the wild.

Crocodile wardens, smiling at the camera, whist standing in a grassy area of crocodile habitat.

Wardens Yem and Sim stand beside a crocodile nest on the banks of the river.

Crocodile Conservation

It’s proving to be a real success. The protection of key species including the Siamese crocodile, has improved significantly. This critically endangered reptile has been severely impacted in the past, with just 250 estimated to be living in Cambodian rivers now. A breeding centre ensures baby crocodiles can mature safely before being released. This reintroduction of a key species into the local ecosystem is a real turning point, demonstrating success in terms of population recovery and the long-term viability and health of the rainforest ecosystem. It also means that local people are employed in the breeding centre and as wardens patrolling the river, trained in data collection and monitoring crocodile numbers.

The next phase of planned crocodile conservation efforts include releasing more into the wild, as well as continued monitoring of those that have been released. Thanks to supporters like you, the future looks bright for this part of the forest.