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Wildlife Watch

Nearly 400 Rare Baby Crocodiles Saved From Becoming Purses

In this week’s crime blotter: endangered Siamese crocs saved, 525 bear paws seized, and a tourist attack on a flamingo.

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Siamese crocodiles, such as this baby seen here at the Pilsen Zoo in the Czech Republic, are among the world’s most endangered and least studied crocodilians in the world.


Chinese police seized 399 baby Siamese crocodiles from a house in southern China, according to the state-owned Xinhua News Agency.

Police in Dongxing were collecting registration information from residents when they noticed three “nervous-looking men” moving goods outside a rental house. Police approached them for questioning, but two escaped in a truck. The third was caught.

Siamese crocodiles are one of the most critically endangered species of crocodilians on the planet. In 1992, they were virtually extinct in the wild, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, though later a few surviving but fragmented populations were discovered. The freshwater crocodiles are native to Southeast Asia but most likely remain only in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Though nearly extinct in the wild, about 60,000 Siamese crocodiles are farmed each year for leather products such as handbags, shoes, and accessories, according to the website of Pan American Leathers, Inc., an exotic-skin tannery based in New York and Colombia.

These baby crocs were likely about 15 days old, and Chinese police say they believe they came from Vietnam, destined to be killed for leather products once they grew big enough. In China, it’s illegal to raise Siamese crocodiles without a license, and it’s illegal to trade the species. Siamese crocodile products are illegal in the United States and European Union, so Asian countries are the main market for them.

Some other wildlife crime busts, convictions, and investigations around the world announced this past week:

BEAR PAWS SEIZED: Russian authorities seized 525 bear paws worth almost $500,000 headed for China, the Siberian Times reports. Federal security agents and customs investigators also found nearly 4,000 mink furs, more than five pounds of jade (2.4 kilograms), and a piece of a mammoth tusk. The paws were from brown and Himalayan bears, which are critically endangered. One person was charged with smuggling.

TOURIST BRUTALITY: A tourist at Busch Gardens in Florida has been arrested on felony animal cruelty charges after attacking a flamingo named Pinky, Tampa Patch reports. Joseph Anthony Corrao, 45, was with his family when he reached into the enclosure, picked up a flamingo, then set it down unharmed. He next picked up Pinky, but witnesses and his mother told him to leave the flamingos alone. He then threw Pinky to the ground. She had to be euthanized because of her injuries.

INDIAN FLOOD: Monsoon flooding in India’s Kaziranga National Park has killed up to 20 rare one-horned rhinos, and poachers are taking advantage. Guards discovered three poachers and the bodies of a mother rhino and her calf after they were drawn to the scene by the sound of gunfire, according to India’s the Telegraph.

SOCIAL-MEDIA SALES: Chinese authorities have arrested 21 people and questioned 400 more in relation to the seizure of 10,000 illegal products, including ivory and rhino horn, according to Finland’s GB Times. They were allegedly using social media to sell their products.

BUSINESSMEN ARRESTED: Two businessmen charged in the Republic of the Congo in connection with the trafficking of 1.6 tons (1.5 metric tons) of elephant ivory made their first appearance in court, according to Freeland, an anti-trafficking nonprofit. They are also suspected of being linked to several major shipments of ivory from Africa seized in Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore during the past two years.

Follow Rachael Bale on Twitter.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to ngwildlife@ngs.org.

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