A man spotted and caught a young crocodile at a popular spot in the countryside in Tai Po in the New Territories on Thursday.
A member of public spotted the small croc in a stream at Bride’s Pool and handed the wild animal to the department after catching it, according to a post by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department on Facebook on Friday.
Officers from the department immediately searched the area but no more crocodiles were found.
The 40-centimeter-long crocodile weighed about 0.2 kilograms and has been under care at the department’s center. In general, the crocodile is healthy but its species has yet to be identified as it is still too young.
An expert believed it may be a critically endangered Siamese crocodile, which could grow as long as 3.8 meters and weighs up to 150 kilograms, Apple Daily reported.
He believed the crocodile, which is popular in the local illegal pet market, might have been released in the wild.
According to Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, Siamese crocodiles were thought to be virtually extinct in the wild in 1992, but the animals were later found in a few small, fragmented populations in Thailand and Cambodia.
These freshwater crocs are native to Southeast Asia but most likely remain only in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
Hundreds of thousands are farmed each year for their highly prized leather, which can be used to make handbags, shoes and accessories.
According to CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, it is illegal to trade the species internationally without permits.
The group reminded the public that it is very unwise and dangerous to buy a young crocodile as a pet and, when it grows, to discard it in a public area.