Endangered Siam Crocodiles hatched in Laos

By the Associated Press | August 26, 2011 | 5:50 AM EDT

VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) — Environmentalists say rare Siam Crocodiles have hatched in a zoo in Laos and will be released into the wild once they are old enough to fend for themselves.

Chris Hallam with the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society says the 20 baby crocodiles hatched last week from eggs found in a lake in southern Laos.

The eggs were brought to the zoo for protection. Hallam says they will be released in 18 months to join the estimated 300 of their species living in the wilds of Southeast Asia.

Siam Crocodiles are a critically endangered species. They can grow up to 10 feet (3 meters) long but are generally docile.

Their passive nature made it all the easier to hunt them by the thousands in recent decades.