VIENTIANE // One of the world's rarest crocodile species has moved a little bit further from extinction with the hatching of 20 wild eggs plucked from a nest found in southern Laos.
Experts believe there could be as few as 300 Siamese crocodiles remaining, so the discovery of the nest is a significant step in the rehabilitation of a species that was declared extinct in the wild in 1992.
Since then, tiny populations have been discovered in remote corners of its range, which used to include most of Southeast Asia. Still, the crocs remain critically endangered.
Under the soft red light of an incubator, the 20 baby crocodiles tapped and cracked their way into the world this month. Their nest was found in the southern province of Savannakhet in June by a team of villagers trained by the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which is working to save the species in Laos.
"The feeling was one of elation," said Chris Hallam, who coordinates the organisation's crocodile project in Laos.
Hallam said the crocodiles will be raised in a zoo for 18 months before being released back into the wild.
The Siamese crocodile grows up to three metres in length but is generally docile. Their passive nature made them easier to hunt for their soft skin and meat.
* Associated Press