A Change of Guard

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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Royal honour for croc doc who saved ‘extinct’ species


Home - A young Siamese crocodile
A young Siamese crocodile
A SCIENTIST from Cambridge has been given a royal honour by the government of Cambodia – for saving one of the world’s rarest crocodiles.

The Siamese crocodile was believed to be extinct in the wild, but several years ago Dr Jenny Daltry, from the Cambridge-based conservation charity Fauna & Flora International (FFI), discovered a tiny number were still alive in Cambodia.

She has since spearheaded a successful campaign to save them – and yesterday the Royal Cambodian Government recognised her efforts by awarding her the title Officer of the Order of Sahemetrei.

The award is given for “distinguished services to the king and nation”.

Dr Daltry, a senior conservation biologist at the charity, told the News: “I’m overwhelmed and grateful.

“For a conservationist to receive this rare honour does, I think, signify the importance that Cambodia places on its wildlife, forests, and protected areas.”

She has worked for FFI for 15 years and much of her time has been spent in Cambodia, where she has led several field expeditions, resulting in increased protection of forested areas in the Cardamom Mountains.

After discovering Siamese crocodiles surviving there in the year 2000, she set up a community-based programme to protect the endangered reptile.

She has also led a ground-breaking initiative to establish a new generation of Cambodian scientists.

An FFI spokeswoman said: “Because the Pol Pot regime largely wiped out the educated classes, the country lacks enough qualified practitioners to manage its wildlife and help it to develop sustainably. Under FFI Cambodia’s University Capacity Building Programme, Dr Daltry created the first permanent Masters of Science programme at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. Nearly 150 Cambodians have enrolled on the course so far.”

The honour was presented to the Cambridge scientist at a ceremony attended by senior government officials, international dignitaries and the British ambassador to Cambodia.

Dr Daltry said: “The achievement I feel most proud of is helping talented Cambodians to become leaders in biodiversity conservation. I also thank my colleagues and co-workers for their tireless commitment and support for more than a decade.”

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