Identification of purebred Crocodylus siamensis for reintroduction in Vietnam

  • Fitzsimmons N
  • Buchan J
  • Lam P
 et al. 
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Abstract

Crocodylus siamensis, the Siamese crocodile, is a critically endangered species of freshwater crocodile previously distributed throughout much of SE Asia. Recovery plans call for reintroductions to the wild using founder individuals currently in captivity, mostly in commercial crocodile farms. On many farms C. siamensis has been intentionally hybridised with either Cuban crocodiles, C. rhombifer, or the estuarine crocodile, C. porosus, and hybrids may be difficult to distinguish morphologically. We report on the combined use of microsatellite and mtDNA genetic markers to determine the species status of potential founder individuals for reintroduction of C. siamensis. Genetic markers were used to characterise 103 captive and wild-caught individuals of C. siamensis, C. rhombifer and C. porosus in Vietnam and to distinguish purebred versus hybrid individuals. Although the microsatellite loci used had some overlap of allele sizes among species, assignment tests allowed differentiation. Four hybrids were identified, two of which had not been recognised morphologically as hybrids, and one of these was thought to be a C. siamensis suitable for reintroduction. Ten of the identified purebred C. siamensis were subsequently released into Cat Tien National Park in southern Vietnam.

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