Director-General Dr Adisorn Promthep broke the news this afternoon at the Phuket Coastal Fisheries Research and Development Centre in Pa Khlok, where Leypang has been kept since his capture earlier this year.
Also present were Phuket Vice Governor Pragob Wongmaneerung, Phuket Fisheries Department Chief Paiboon Bunlippatanon, Phuket Coastal Fisheries Research and Development Centre Director Waipot Kreuasanae as well as representatives and veterinarians from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP).
Despite the ongoing debate for months about whether or not Leypang should be released back into the wild either here in Phuket or elsewhere, Dr Adisorn today said, “DNA tests have proved that Leypang is a mix of two species of crocodiles: the freshwater crocodylus siamensis and the saltwater crocodylus porosus.
“As such, by law, the crocodile cannot be released back into the wild,” he said.
Dr Adisorn noted that many suggestions had been put forward in finding a new home for Leypang.
He dismissed them one by one.
“Leypang could be kept at the national park in Phuket [Sirinath National Park], but there are no officers there who can take care of him,” Dr Adisorn said.
“He could also be kept at the Pru Jae San swamp in Mai Khao, but it would cost a lot to install a fence for him as the area is very large. There is also the risk that Leypang will get out,” he added.
“The Phuket Coastal Fisheries Research and Development Centre is an option, but the place is not big enough and there are no experts resident here to look after Leypang,” Dr Adisorn noted.
“The last option is a private-sector zoo. Three of these provide shows and do not have enough space for Leypang, but one of these does enough an area large enough and can provide people to look after Leypang. This one is Phuket Zoo,” he concluded.
“The zoo has raised crocodiles for a long time and there are experts who can look after Leypang, but we have yet to discuss the agreement in more detail,” Dr Adisorn added.
“Phuket people can visit Leypang. We are not giving Leypang to the zoo, but they can keep him there and provide care for him,” Dr Adisorn explained.
“Leypang will be handed over to the Phuket Zoo by the middle of next month. Leypang will be a New Year gift for Phuket,” Dr Adisorn added.
Pichai Sakunsorn, Manager at Phuket Zoo and also present at the announcement today, said, “We are happy that the Department of Fisheries trusts us. I confirm that we have a space especially reserved for Leypang and we have experts in caring for crocodiles to take good care of him.
“Before, this special area now reserved for Laypang was used for keeping 20 crocodiles together. We are currently installing some better natural surroundings in the pen just for him. These improvements are about 60% complete and should be complete by the end of this month,” Mr Pichai said.
“In the future, if a better home is found for Leypang, we are ‘ready’ to hand him over,” he added.