Tuesday, 5 June 2012

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Successful Recovery of Morelet’s Crocodile under the Endangered Species Act - via Herp Digest

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced removal of the Morelet’s crocodile from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to recovery of the species. The species is found in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.

The Morelet’s crocodile was named after a French naturalist, P.M.A. Morelet, who discovered the species in Mexico in 1850. The species is smaller than other species, such as the American crocodile, with most wild

adults usually ranging in length from just 6 - 8 feet. It is generally found in freshwater environments such as lakes, swamps and slow-moving rivers. The majority of the Morelet’s crocodile population occurs in

Mexico and Belize (87 percent), and those two countries hold the majority of the potentially suitable habitat (81 percent) throughout the species’ range. Guatemala contains the remaining 13 percent of the wild Morelet’s crocodiles and the remaining 19 percent of the potentially suitable habitat throughout the species’ range.

The Morelet’s crocodile was listed as endangered throughout its entire range on June 2, 1970, under the predecessor of the ESA. It was listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) on July 1, 1975. CITES in an international treaty that aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction that are or may be affected by trade. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. The overharvest for commercial purposes was the primary reason for the Morelet’s crocodile being listed under the ESA and its inclusion in CITES.

As a result of the species’ improved status, on March 18, 2010, at the Conference of the Parties (CoP), the Morelet’s crocodile populations in Mexico and Belize were transferred to CITES Appendix II while prohibiting trade in wild specimens for commercial purposes. Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but where trade must be controlled in order to avoid use incompatible with their survival. The new CITES Appendix II designation became effective on June 23, 2010. At the request of Guatemala, however, those populations of Morelet’s crocodiles in Guatemala will remain in CITES Appendix I.

Because trade in wild specimens is prohibited, international commercial trade in Morelet’s crocodiles under CITES is limited to individuals from sources other than the wild (e.g. captive-breeding operations). After the
effective date of this final rule, Morelet’s crocodile parts and products originating from Mexico (and Belize, if any) captive-breeding operations may be imported into the United States for commercial purposes, as long as the exporting country finds that the export will not be detrimental to the species, the specimen was lawfully acquired and the required CITES export permit or re-export certificate has been issued.

The final rule to remove Morelet’s crocodile from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife will publish in the Federal Register on May 23, 2012, and become effective on June 22, 2012. A copy of the final rule is available at http://www.fws.gov/policy/frsystem/default.cfm by clicking on the 2012 Final Rules under Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.

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