June 28, 2010

Borneo’s Crocodile Population On The Rise

Borneo wildlife officials are pushing to have the country's saltwater crocodiles removed from a list of endangered animals, saying that the reptile's numbers have strongly recovered in the last few years.

Deputy directory of the Sabah Wildlife Department, Augustin Tuuga, told AFP that the Crocodylus population is at about 11,000 to 15,000 in the state compared to 1,000 to 5,000 two decades ago.

"We are pushing to have the crocodile downgraded from the 'endangered' to the 'not necessarily threatened' list on the Convention of International Trade of Species (CITES)," he told AFP.

Tuuga said that there was a big demand for legal crocodile leather from handbag and clothing accessory manufacturers as well as for crocodile meat in kitchens throughout Asia.

"Under CITES, these crocodiles can only come from breeding farms but once the crocodile is downgraded, manufacturers will be able to get the crocodiles from the wild," he added.

"However, before this can happen we must have an effective monitoring mechanism to keep track of the crocodile population to ensure its numbers do not fall below acceptable levels."

Saltwater crocodiles have the most commercially valuable skin of its species and are found from Sri Lanka down to the Caroline Islands in the Western Pacific.

According to Tuuga, the increase in the crocodile population has also seen 38 attacks on humans during the past 10 years with 23 deaths and 15 injuries.

However, Tuuga said that the increasing population was not the only factor that led to the attacks.

"A lot of the crocodile's habitat has been destroyed by development and much of its food sources have also been depleted so this and the frequent human use of the rivers mean that such attacks will occur," he added.

The saltwater crocodile has a large head with ridges that run from the eyes along the center of the snout, with some growing up to 23 feet in length.


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