National Academies Press: OpenBook

Crocodiles as a Resource for the Tropics (1983)

Chapter: Regulations, Safeguards, and Research Needs

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Suggested Citation:"Regulations, Safeguards, and Research Needs." National Research Council. 1983. Crocodiles as a Resource for the Tropics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18531.
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Suggested Citation:"Regulations, Safeguards, and Research Needs." National Research Council. 1983. Crocodiles as a Resource for the Tropics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18531.
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Suggested Citation:"Regulations, Safeguards, and Research Needs." National Research Council. 1983. Crocodiles as a Resource for the Tropics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18531.
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Suggested Citation:"Regulations, Safeguards, and Research Needs." National Research Council. 1983. Crocodiles as a Resource for the Tropics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18531.
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Suggested Citation:"Regulations, Safeguards, and Research Needs." National Research Council. 1983. Crocodiles as a Resource for the Tropics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18531.
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Regulations, Safeguards, and Research Needs The Papua New Guinea experience provides a model for other nations, but to implement such a program requires a foundation of legislation, gov- ernment support, and legal safeguards. Prerequisites of any crocodile- farming program are an overhaul of legislation, strict law enforcement, and reciprocal laws with neighboring countries. The enforcement of wildlife regulations is so inadequate in most coun- tries that crocodile farming is open to abuse. Farms can front for illegal poaching operations, and hides taken from the wild can be intermingled with hides produced on the ranch or farm unless government enforce- ment is stringent and inspection frequent. Moreover, the stimulation of world trade in crocodile hides through the sale of farmed hides might lead to increased poaching of wild croco- diles or eggs. Poachers have fewer operating expenses than farmers, and unscrupulous hunters and dealers can harvest hides, steal crocodile eggs or young, and subsequently sell them through countries that lack en- forcement capabilities. This practice could be disastrous for countries where crocodile populations have almost disappeared. Government Regulations* Before any farming scheme is attempted, protective legislation should be in operation throughout the country. This should make it unlawful to kill, capture by any means whatsoever, disturb willfully, or pursue any crocodiles, or to collect or gather any crocodile eggs without a permit. No crocodile eggs should be allowed to be imported or exported with- out a permit. No persons should possess, sell, buy, donate, receive conse- quent upon a donation, convey, keep in captivity, or display any live *Suggestions of A. Pooley. 21

22 CROCODILES AS A RESOURCE FOR THE TROPICS crocodiles without being the holder of a permit. And no person should be allowed to import or export any crocodile, dead or alive, or any portion of a crocodile, processed or not, from any country without a permit. Before granting a license for a commerical farm, the government should investigate the applicant's land tenure and financial resources, particularly since the farm will have to operate for three to four years before producing crocodiles suitable for culling. The applicant's ability and experience in rearing crocodiles should be determined. A plan of the proposed farm, including details of water and food supply and the pro- posed methods of harvesting food, should be examined. It is suggested that: • No permit for egg harvesting should be issued until adequate rearing facilities have been prepared. The permit should state the name of the holder or his authorized representative, the annual total number of eggs allocated for harvesting, and the area where collection is permitted.* • Permits should be issued on a year-by-year basis. The applicant should understand that the department may refuse to renew or issue fur- ther permits if the farm is not managed satisfactorily or if permit condi- tions have not been observed. • The applicant should understand that the farm and all production records should be available for inspection by an official of the conserva- tion department. • The farmer should be required to submit periodic reports detailing the total number of nests raided and eggs harvested, the egg mortality, and the number of eggs hatched. Thereafter, the number of animals held in captivity, the rate of mortality and its causes, if known, and the num- ber of animals sold or culled should be included in each report. Furthermore, it is recommended that the permit holder release 5 per- cent of his annual crop of hatchlings in order to restock the natural habi- tat. In addition, a further 5 percent of the hatchling crop should be reared to a length of 1 m before being released, bringing the total release of young crocodilians to 10 percent of the annual crop of hatchlings. The distribution of hatchlings and young reared animals should be supervised by the conservation department. Unless government agencies monitor the wild populations of crocodil- ians being harvested for hides, eggs, or young, the farms themselves could become a major drain on those populations, leading to their ex- tinction. Therefore, before any farming program is started, a survey of *In some cases it is also important to specify a harvest time. Often it is best to take eggs laid early in the season because the female will then lay another clutch.

REGULATIONS, SAFEGUARDS, AND RESEARCH NEEDS 23 the breeding grounds should be undertaken to determine the number of nests available and those from which eggs can be taken with least danger to the wild population (for example, from nests on grounds likely to be Hooded). These breeding grounds should be fully protected; tourists on foot, in vehicles, or in launches should not be allowed to visit or disturb croco- diles during the breeding season. International Safeguards and Cooperation* The international traffic in millions of unmarked crocodilian hides and products poses one of the greatest obstacles to enforcement of na- tional and international endangered species regulations. Hides and skins frequently cannot be traced to their source or country of origin. Legally harvested or farmed animals cannot readily be distinguished from those exported in secret from illegal sources. The need for internationally acceptable methods of marking individual hides and products is critical. Traffic in illegal crocodilian hides and products will continue as long as law enforcement agencies lack the means to detect them easily. In the United States a system has been developed in some states that enables conservation, police, and customs officials to monitor traffic in alligator hides. A conservation authority issues an official tag for each animal allowed by the license. All hides exported are tagged with a serial- ly numbered plastic tag that cannot be removed without breaking it. The serial number is recorded on the export permit and with details of the buyer's and seller's name and address. This tag remains on the hide, right through the tanning process, until the hide reaches the manufacturer. Each tannery maintains a register of purchases that is available for in- spection. This system also is being implemented in Zimbabwe and is worthy of trial in other countries. The tagging of all hides and products for individual identification is an important safeguard. Other safeguards include: • The use of engraved stamps or seals to authenticate legal licenses and export permits and make it more difficult for documents to be forged. • Internationally accessible data and a retrieval system that allows law enforcement personnel to corroborate the authenticity of documentation and the origin of hides and products; *Information in this section supplied by P. Brazaitis.

International Trade Restrictions More than 100 nations have signed an international treaty restricting their impor- tation of crocodile skins as part of a worldwide agreement designed to control inter- national trade that could threaten the continued existence of species of wild plants and animals. This treaty, known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), was established in 1973. Currently banned from importation (CITES, Appendix 1) are the following endangered crocodilians: Chinese Alligator Black Caimen Rio Apaporis Caiman Broad-Snouted Caiman False Gavial Western African Dwarf Crocodile Congo Dwarf Crocodile African Slender-Snouted Crocodile Siamese Crocodile Mugger Crocodile Ceylon Mugger Crocodile Philippine Crocodile Orinoco Crocodile Cuban Crocodile Morelet's Crocodile Nile Crocodile Gavial A lligator sinensis Melanosuchus niger Caiman crocodilus apaporiensis Caiman latirostris Tomistoma schlegelii Osteolaemus tetraspis tetraspis Osteolaemus tetraspis osborni Crocodylus cataphractus Crocodylus siamensis Crocodylus palustris palustris Crocodylus palustris kimbula Crocodylus novaeguineae mindorensis Crocodylus intermedius Crocodylus rhombifer Crocodylus moreletii Crocodylus niloticus Gavialis gangeticus Although signatory countries have agreed to prohibit trade in these species, authenticated captive-bred specimens can be exported and imported when appropri- ate scientific authorities in both exporting and importing countries can certify that the transaction will not be detrimental to the survival of the species. A second category (CITES, Appendix II) limits (but does not ban) trade in croco- dilians whose populations are threatened but not in imminent danger. These species are: American Alligator South American Caiman Brown Caiman Dwarf Caiman Smooth-Fronted Caiman Johnson's Crocodile New Guinea Crocodile Saltwater Crocodile American Crocodile A lligator mississippiensis Caiman crocodilus crocodilus Caiman crocodilus fuscus Paleosuchus palpebrosus Paleosuchus trigonatus Crocodylus johnsoni Crocodylus novaeguineae novaeguineae Crocodylus porosus Crocodylus acutus Trade in the products of these species requires that exports be monitored by a scientific authority in the country of origin. If wild populations of a species appear to be dropping below the level that can maintain their role in the ecosystem, then ex- ports are to be limited. Again CITES will, in principle, give exemptions to countries that institute farming or conservation programs that in no way contribute to the further destruction of the populations. In 1979 Papua New Guinea, because of the success of its crocodile- farming program, was provided such an exemption for the saltwater crocodile. Further information may be obtained from CITES, c/o IUCN Headquarters, Ave. du Mont Blanc, CH 1196 Gland, Switzerland. 24

REGULATIONS, SAFEGUARDS, AND RESEARCH NEEDS 25 • Monitoring agencies to record and publish market statistics, traffic, and trends; • Laws limiting the sale of hides only to nations that cooperate in an internationally sanctioned program of safeguards; and • Research funding to monitor populations and develop new marking and identification techniques. (For instance, the use of dyes, roll mark- ing, and infusion of detectable chemical tracers has yet to be fully ex- plored.) Research Needs There is urgent need for tannery owners, manufacturers, and conser- vation authorities to jointly work out the rational exploitation of croc- odile populations. Commercial interests have reaped a rich reward over many years, and if the crocodile industry is to continue, its entrepreneurs must invest in management and conservation. Clearly, research to improve farming techniques will be a wise invest- ment for both commercial operators and the countries concerned. Sur- veys to determine population numbers and size as well as the structure of breeding stocks and recruitment rates are essential. Such surveys may indicate the need to establish sanctuaries to protect breeding stock and nesting grounds, or perhaps to ban hunting to allow populations to recover. A rearing program and restocking of suitable habitats might be necessary.

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