English name: Siamese Crocodile
Scientific name: Crocodylus siamensis
Thai name: Chorake Nam Choet
The Siamese Crocodile is not found in Bangkok, except for hybrids which are seen in crocodile farms and at the Bangkok Zoo. The crocodile I photographed in Khao Yai is one of two former captives that someone had released in the river there sometime in the 2000s – it is also likely to be a hybrid and not a pure Siamese Crocodile.
Conservation status: The Siamese Crocodile, Thailand’s greatest reptile, was decimated by the skin trade in the mid-1900s to the point where it became almost impossible to find. People cared more about having crocodile skin products than having crocodiles. Now the wild Siamese Crocodile is basically extinct in Thailand, with only a couple original specimens left in some of the more remote parks.
Outside of Thailand the species is not doing much better. It has become extinct in Burma and Malaysia and nearly extinct in Indonesia and Vietnam. The only substantial populations left are a few hundred crocodiles remaining in Cambodia and Laos, but even there the populations are under threat.
Besides the skin hunters, many crocodiles were targeted by nest thieves who illegally take their eggs. Others die when they get tangled up in nets or other discarded fishing equipment. Much of their habitat has been destroyed by development, agriculture, logging, or hydroelectric projects. Other habitat is degraded via pollution from agricultural fertilizer and pesticides. The combination of hunting and habitat destruction is too much for them.
Thailand is host to giant crocodile farms with tens of thousands of crocodiles. However, these are not natural Siamese Crocodiles but hybrids, a mix between Siamese Crocodile and Saltwater Crocodile that is specially bred for size and skin quality. A true Siamese Crocodile cannot be found in such farms.
The loss of the crocodile is a warning to us of how many more species we could lose if we continue in our current ways.