A Brief History of Crocodilian Conservation
by Adam Britton
INTRODUCTION | MAN-EATERS | BITING BACK | DRAGONS | SUMMARY
Without doubt, conserving crocodilians is no easy task. But one message is clear: people who live around crocodilians need to see advantages in conserving them. It is difficult to see these people supporting conservation efforts if crocodilians have no intrinsic, aesthetic, environmental, economic, social or cultural value to them. Those of us who admire crocodilians need only to know that they exist, but this opinion is very much the exception for the people who have to share their habitat with crocodiles and alligators. When animals threaten your livelihood, or even your life, it influences your opinion about those animals. Conservationists must bear this in mind if they hope to make long-term progress with conservation.
There is still a lot to be learned about crocodilian conservation. Which species need continued protection? Will sustainable use strategies continue to work in the long-term? Where will future resources for conservation come from? Despite these uncertainties, most people consider the last 25 years to be a success for crocodilians. In 1975, CITES classified two thirds of all crocodilians as endangered, but in the year 2000 only a quarter of those species remain on Appendix I. Given the state of most crocodilian populations in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this success cannot be underestimated.
But the Chinese alligator proves that there is still a long way to go. Conservation is expensive, and effective action is difficult without sufficient resources. Management programs need further development if they are to help the remaining endangered crocodilians. Fortunately, all of these species have healthy captive populations that can be used for future reintroductions. Together with restoration of habitat, education programs and a general acceptance of the value crocodilians have to both the planet and to ourselves, crocodiles and alligators have a better chance at surviving the next 240 million years.
For those interested in learning more about crocodilian conservation, the following discuss the pros and cons of various conservation projects around the world.
Andrews, H. and McEachern, P., 1994. Crocodile Conservation in Nepal. IUCN Nepal and US AID, Kathmandu, Nepal. 28 pp.
Joanen, T. and McNease, L. 1987. The management of alligators in Louisiana, USA. Pp. 33-42 in Wildlife Management: Crocodiles and Alligators (ed by Webb, Manolis and Whitehead). Surrey Beatty & Sons: Chipping Norton, Australia
Ross, J.P.(ed) (1998). Crocodiles. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Crocodile Specialist Group. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland.
Thorbjarnarson, J. and Valesco, A., 1998. Venezuela's caiman harvest program. A historical perspective and analysis of its conservation benefits. Wildlife Conservation Society working paper no. 11. 66 pp.
Thorbjarnarson, J., Wang, X. and McMurry, S.T. (2000). Conservation status of wild populations of the Chinese Alligator. Results of a survey in southern Anhui Province, July-August 1999. Wildlife Conservation Society (online at http://www.wcs.org)
Webb, G.J.W., Britton, A.R.C., Manolis, S.C., Ottley, B. and Stirrat, S., (2000). The recovery of Crocodylus porosus in the Northern Territory of Australia: 1971-1998 in Crocodiles in Proceedings of the 15th Meeting of the Crocodile Specialist Group. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland
Webb, G.J.W., Manolis, S.C. and Whitehead, P. (eds) (1987). Wildlife Management: Crocodiles and Alligators. Surrey Beatty & Sons: Chipping Norton, Australia
Whitaker, R. (1999). Sustainable use of India's crocodile resource. Envis 2(1): 111-117
Originally appeared on Animal Planet's Crocodiles Revealed website
Reprinted with permission
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