Colombia’s wildlife conservation efforts in the north of the country have led to the discovery of the largest population of one of the most endangered species of crocodiles in the region.
A sampling collected during field trips to over 82 miles of the Sardinata, San Miguel, Nuevo Presidente and Tibu Rivers revealed a census of 196 Magdalena crocodiles, also known as American crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus), representing five to 10% of the overall population. This proportion would imply that there could be over 1,000 crocodiles inhabiting the area.
Of the 23 known species of crocodiles in the world, Colombia is home to six, making the country one of the most diverse in the world.
The Magdalena variety is a species on the “red list” found in Appendix I of the Convention on Interational Trade for Endangered Species of Plants and Animals (CITES).
A crocodile conservation project was initiated two years ago after a 12.5 foot crocodile weighing over 385 pounds dragged a six-year old girl to the bottom of the Sardinata River.
Giovanni Andres Ulloa, a specialist in mangroves and wildlife from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, was chosen by both Corporacion Autonoma and Ecopetrol to lead the conservation project, which became one of the most successful in the Caribbean.
Ecopetrol has several oil fields in the area, and its assistance was provided for the assessment and prevention of dangerous crocodile encounters.
Now that the “City of Crocodiles” has been discovered, researchers believe they have a big job ahead of them. They will have to find a way to continue research efforts while at the same time provide education to local communities in an effort to promote safety and conservation.
“Although this [the discovery] was known to the local people,” Ulloa explained, “to us it resulted in a most spectacular discovery. We believe that this could be one of the most abundant populations in the whole region.”