A List Of Extinct Animals In The Last Ten Years The Unloved Ones – Why Crocodilians Deserve Love Too

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The Unloved Ones – Why Crocodilians Deserve Love Too

Crocodiles – One of the last archosaurs

There are twenty-three species of crocodiles left in the world today, the last of a large and diverse group of reptiles that can trace their origins back some 250 million years. The tropics in what we know as the new and old world have crocodiles in their various shapes and forms, but all of these species are endangered and vulnerable to extinction. Crocodiles are one of the main branches of the subclass of reptiles called Archosauria, sometimes called “ruling reptiles” because of the dominance of these creatures in terrestrial habitats during the Mesozoic Era. As one of the main branches of the Archosauria family tree, crocodyliforms (the term used to refer to all species of crocodiles, alligators, caimans and gharials), share a common ancestor with flying reptiles and dinosaurs. The only other surviving members of the Archosaur family living today are birds.

Alligators, Crocodiles, Gharials and Caimans

Of the twenty-three extant species, only thirteen are true crocodiles, the other members of this group being either the broad-nosed alligators, the caimans (restricted to the New World), and the narrow-nosed gharials (restricted to the New World Old). Although a number of individual species have wide ranges, all crocodyliform species are covered by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), although certain species are more endangered than others.

The problem is that these creatures do not have many allies among humans. All these animals even some of the smaller species such as the broad-nosed crocodile (Osteolaemus tetrapis) of central and western Africa, which rarely exceeds six feet in length, is capable of causing very serious injury. Attacks on children are so rare that there have been reports of death. Large crocodyliforms such as the American Alligator (The alligator mississippiensis) are known to attack humans, and many pet cats and dogs are eaten by these reptiles in Florida each year. However, man has had a devastating effect on alligator populations in the past. In the period 1880-1894 it is estimated that around 2.25 million were slaughtered in the wild, many of them for their valuable hides.

The largest species of true crocodiles that can exceed twelve feet in length or more are all known as man-eaters. Saltwater Crocodile or Estuary (Porous crocodile) is responsible for a number of fatal attacks each year. Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) has an extraordinary reputation, as does the mugger crocodile of Asia – Crocodylus palustris. There are often conflicts of interest between local fishermen and villagers and a resident crocodile population, especially as human settlements have moved into areas bordering the marshes as the human population increases. It’s the crocodiles that end up getting slaughtered, humans and these apex predators don’t mix well.

The skin from the underside of many crocodile species has been bred for thousands of years as it makes an extremely soft and luxurious leather. Crocodiles are hunted for sport and there is much intensive hunting of young animals for the pet trade. It is estimated that more than one million young crocodiles are exported from South America each year for the pet trade. Pollution has affected a number of crocodile populations as well as the loss of suitable habitat. The Indian gharial is perhaps the rarest of all crocodyliforms, with only about two hundred wild specimens remaining. A number of reared animals succumbed to disease, possibly chemical poisoning due to river pollution, and the breeding population in India’s wilds has declined significantly. The gharial is now listed as “critically endangered” under CITES. These magnificent fish-eaters were almost extinct in the wild in the 1970s, but a breeding and release program brought this species back from the brink of extinction. However, efforts to reintroduce individuals into the wild have been hampered by the lack of suitable range available to gharials. There are simple places, not suitable enough for publication.

Unfortunately, many people find it hard to love these scaly monsters, with their fearsome and in many cases well-deserved reputation for man-eaters. However, it’s not just the cute and cuddly pandas that need our protection. Indeed, it could be argued that money spent on trying to preserve panda populations could be better spent on efforts to protect crocodile species around the world.

Why crocodiles over pandas

Crocodiles are certainly not cute, they lack the fur of mammals, but they play a more important role in food chains than the Giant Panda of China for example. The American crocodile when fully mature eats a lot of rodents and thus helps to reduce the number of pests. The American alligator digs pools in the Florida swamp, and these “alligator holes” provide an oasis of water during droughts in the region. These sites can support a wide range of native flora and fauna, all of which depend on the alligators raised to dig the ponds in the first place.

All members of Crocodyliforms are covered by CITES regulations. For some species, the trade of any goods produced from animals, bones, skins, meat is prohibited. Population numbers are so low that it makes any trade a real threat to the survival of the species. Some crocodile products can be traded, but this is done under the strict supervision of CITES.

Visiting schools Teaching about crocodile conservation

When we visit schools that work with young students from the age of five and up, we use the example of crocodiles to explain extinction. We compare crocodiles to those other reptilian members of the Archosauria, the dinosaurs, and try to overcome the need to protect all animals and their habitats as best we can. When asked to name an animal at risk of extinction due to the activities of our species, students tend to cite mammals as examples. However, we are doing our best to help convince future conservationists that even unloving scaly monsters like crocodiles need our protection too.

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