Nineteen baby crocodiles, considered to be critically endangered, were released into the wild last week, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The release of the rare Siamese crocodiles into the wetlands of Lao is part of conservationists’ efforts to prevent the species from becoming extinct. There are currently believed to be just 250 remaining in the wild.
Live Science writes that the reptiles were raised at the Laos Zoo following the discovery of their eggs during a wildlife survey. The eggs were incubated at the zoo until the crocodiles’ hatching in 2011.
The 19-month-old crocodiles will eventually grow to an average length of 10 feet, but for now they measure at about 27 inches.
The species has been defined as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The decline in the Siamese crocodiles’ population is largely due to excessive hunting and loss of habitat, which typically lies in Southeast Asia and parts of Indonesia.
According to Science Daily, the 19 baby crocodiles were released near the Savannakhet Province, where their eggs were originally discovered. Initially the reptiles will remain in a “soft release” enclosure until they acclimate to their surroundings.
They will continue to be cared for by conservationists until the area’s rainy season causes a rise in water levels, which will facilitate the reptiles movement away from the protective enclosure.
Alex McWilliam, a conservation biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, spoke about the crocodile release in a statement:
“We are extremely pleased with the success of this collaborative program and believe it is an important step in contributing to the conservation of the species by involving local communities in long-term wetland management. The head starting component of this integrated WCS program represents a significant contribution to the conservation of this magnificent animal in the wild.”
The 19 endangered baby crocodiles were released into the wild on February 21.