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20 endangered Siamese crocodiles hatch in Laos

August 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A rare crocodile species is one step further from extinction after 20 eggs hatched in a Southeast Asian zoo.

The Siamese crocodiles were born at Lao Zoo last week, just outside Vientiane. The babies wiggled their way out of their eggs while under the soft red light of an incubator.

The wild eggs were 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 landlocked Laos. The eggs were then brought to the zoo to hatch.

The crocodiles will be raised in captivity for 18 months before being released back into the wild.

Experts said there could be as few as 300 Siamese crocodiles left in the world.

Siamese crocodiles grow up to 10 feet in length but are generally docile. In recent decades, the species has been targeted for its soft skin and meat.

Several thousands of the crocodiles remain in farms and in zoos, though many have been crossbred with bigger species, reducing still further the numbers of pure Siamese crocodiles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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