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Crocodiles return to their special lake

Update: November, 28/2015 - 12:00

Crocodiles nearly vanished from Bau Sau, also known as Crocodile Lake, in Dong Nai province.

That was because so many of the creatures were hunted.

Now, there has been a big effort to make crocodiles safe there once again.

Crocodiles were brought to the lake and they are laying eggs, from which baby crocodiles are hatching.

Crocs below: Tourists in a paddle boat take photos of crocodiles in Bau Sau Lake in the National Cat Tien Park in Dong Nai province. The lake is a favourite destination for adventure tours with trekking in the jungle and exploring the lake.
Crocs below: Tourists in a paddle boat take photos of crocodiles in Bau Sau Lake in the National Cat Tien Park in Dong Nai province. The lake is a favourite destination for adventure tours with trekking in the jungle and exploring the lake. - VNS Photo Cong Thanh

by Cong Thanh

By the time we arrived at Bau Sau (the Crocodile Lake) in Cat Tien National Park of Dong Nai Province, we had already spent a remarkable morning trekking through 15km of rainy jungle.

Crocodile Lake, nestled deep into the UNESCO-recognised world biosphere reserve, is only accessible by a 10km pick-up truck ride and then a 5km hike.

With water boots, long sleeves and pants, and heavy doses of bug spray our five-member group and tour guide from the park's eco-tour service centre, Dang Quang Trong, were well prepared for the snakes, mosquitoes and terrestrial leeches populous during the rainy season (between late June and November).

The hike was made easier by the thick umbrella of trees above, sheltering us from the rains. At one point, alerted by the strong smell of urine, we became aware of some langur and gibbon monkeys searching for food overhead.

We stopped several times to snap photos of the green scenery and stamp out a few leeches. Finally, after two hours of wearing out our shoes, we arrived.

Crocodile Lake

"The lake is the biggest one in the lagoon system with its 2,500ha area of water in the rainy season," said Tran Van Manh, head ranger of the Bau Sau station.

Asked where the lake got its name, Manh explained, "The lake was once home to crowds of fresh water Siamese crocodiles, but the species dwindled to near-extinction due to illegal hunting and human activities," he said.

"Now, the fresh water crocodile species has recovered considerably after 60 individuals were released with the support of a conservation project in 2000," he said.

In 2005, the crocodile population showed signs of health, the first native baby crocodile was born since the project's start.

"We have yet to make an official survey of the lake, but about 150 individuals have been born and have grown up. The biggest crocodile is nearly 3m long," he said.

We sat down for a crocodile-diet lunch, eating the same fish the crocodiles enjoy from the lake.

Even though the crocodiles are best seen around 8am or 5pm, we decided to explore the lake anyways. Hard rains prevented us from venturing out in boats to get closer to the crocodiles, but we could still see crocodiles swimming about 50m from our station shelter. One of the bigger crocodiles, about 2m long, came close to the station as it searched for prey near a grassy plot.

Ranger Pham Xuan Linh said, "The fresh water crocodile often reproduces once a year, laying about 40 eggs each. A junior crocodile can grow as long as 25cm and seek food themselves."

Linh said the reproduction rate of crocodiles was only around 40 per cent due to climate change, lack of food and male crocodiles killing junior crocodiles to stop female partners from spending too much time caring for the adolescents.

"The female crocodile is very aggressive about protecting its eggs and offspring, therefore the males urge their partners to move onto the next reproductive turn," he said.

Linh explained that it's also a way to maintain ecological balance by reducing overcrowding in a crocodile flock that has limited food resources in the lake.

According to park officials, 25,000 tourists have visited the park this year, 5,000 of them foreigners.

Tourists can also visit the park's wildlife rescue centre home to 35 bears, gibbons, leopard and langur monkeys.

Visitors can book a tour at the park's tourism centre, which can easily be reached by bus from HCM City. — VNS

GLOSSARY

Crocodile Lake, nestled deep into the UNESCO-recognised world biosphere reserve, is only accessible by a 10km pick-up truck ride and then a 5km hike.

UNESCO stands for the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. By recognising the reserve it accepts that it is an important place.

A biosphere is a place where there are living plants and creatures, usually those that are wild.

A place that is accessible can be reached.

With water boots, long sleeves and pants, and heavy doses of bug spray our five-member group and tour guide from the park's eco-tour service centre, Dang Quang Trong, were well prepared for the snakes, mosquitoes and terrestrial leeches populous during the rainy season (between late June and November).

Terrestrial leeches are leeches that live on land.

If leeches are populous, there are many of them.

"The lake was once home to crowds of fresh water Siamese crocodiles, but the species dwindled to near-extinction due to illegal hunting and human activities," he said.

A species is a type of animal, or plant. In this case it is a type of crocodile.

If a species dwindles to near extinction, it almost becomes wiped out and gone forever.

Hard rains prevented us from venturing out in boats to get closer to the crocodiles, but we could still see crocodiles swimming about 50m from our station shelter.

Venturing means going on an unknown and exciting journey.

One of the bigger crocodiles, about 2m long, came close to the station as it searched for prey near a grassy plot.

A crocodile's prey is the animal it plans to hunt and then eat.

Ranger Pham Xuan Linh said, "The fresh water crocodile often reproduces once a year, laying about 40 eggs each."

To reproduce means to have babies.

Linh said the reproduction rate of crocodiles is only around 40 per cent due to climate change, lack of food and male crocodiles killing junior crocodiles to stop female partners from spending too much time caring for the adolescents.

Adolescents are young adults.

The female crocodile is very aggressive about protecting its eggs and offspring, therefore the males urge their partners to move onto the next reproductive turn.

Aggressive means wanting to fight.

Offspring are babies.

The next reproductive turn means the next round of reproducing.

Linh explained that it's also a way to maintain ecological balance by reducing overcrowding in a crocodile flock that has limited food resources in the lake.

Plants and animals all feed off one another. Sometimes one might do so well that others die out. That is when there is an ecological imbalance. If an ecological balance is maintained, or kept, all the different types of plants and animals survive with one never completely wiping out another.

WORKSHEET

State whether the following sentences are true, or false:

1.      Crocodiles in the Crocodile Lake never grow as long as two metres.

2.      Crocodiles eat fish.

3.      A female crocodile would never look for a fight with anyone, or any other animal, that interferes with its eggs.

4.      A crocodile that is only 25cm long can look for its own food.

5.      Leeches sometimes live on land.

ANSWERS:

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2015



































1. False; 2. True; 3. False; 4. True; 5. True.

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