August 7, 2009

Conservationists Reintroduce Rare Crocs In Philippines

Last week, conservationists released 50 rare Philippine crocodiles from private breeding facilities into the wild in hopes of revitalizing the rare species.

Numbers of the Philippine crocodiles have been dwindling due to hunting, habitat loss and overfishing, according to BBC Earth News.

Experts estimate that less than 100 mature crocodiles exist in the wild.

They hope to see the new class of 50 crocodiles begin to breed in a few years.

After World War II the virtually non-threatening crocodile commercial hunters who wanted to use their skin for leather sought after, and killed many of its population.

Additionally, the crocodile has lost much of its habitat as many of the swamps in the region were converted to rice fields.

Overfishing with dynamite and electricity has also killed off much of the Philippine crocodile species, conservationists said.

Conservation efforts have been underway since 1987 at the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Palawan.

The center is now home to about 800 captive crocodiles.

"Philippine crocodiles in captivity are quite aggressive towards each other," conservationist Jan van der Ploeg of Leiden University in The Netherlands and the Mabuwaya Foundation, told the BBC.

"But the problem with the captive breeding and reintroduction project was not so much the crocodiles but the people. A lot of attention went to the breeding, and too little efforts were made to address the threats, disseminate information and mobilize local support for crocodile conservation."

Conservationists were finally able to reintroduce the first class of 50 young crocs into the wild into Dicatian Lake on July 31.

Researchers have equipped 10 of the reptiles with radio devices in order to track their movement.

"Our team will closely monitor the released crocodiles in the coming months. We hope to collect information that can be used for future releases of Philippine crocodiles," says van der Ploeg.

"In a few years the captive-bred crocodiles in Dicatian will be sexually mature. Then we will know whether the release has been a success."

"The team is thrilled," he continues. "This is the crown on our work. We have worked more than eight years in Sierra Madre, and this is a major milestone."


Image Credit: Wikipedia


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Philippine Crocodile