May 15 - A commercial crocodile farm in Mexico is striking a balance between business and conservation to help protect the region's endangered Morelet crocodile. The reptile is under threat from habitat loss and poaching but the farm is helping the species thrive in the wild. Tara Cleary reports.
Fast and deadly … Mexico's Morelet crocodile. In the wild, it inhabits freshwater swamps and marshes. But those habitats are shrinking and illegal hunting is rampant. The species is endangered. But there is hope .... ironically in the form of a commercial crocodile farm called "Cocodrilos Maya". A joint project teaming breeders with Mexican environmental authorities, the farm aims to save the reptile in the wild by exploiting it in captivity. Biologist at the farm, Tix-Chel Vazquez says they have found the right balance between conserving the Morelet and providing locals with a new means to earn a living selling crocodile skin and meat. SOUNDBITE: BIOLOGIST AT CROCODILE FARM, TIX-CHEL VAZQUEZ, SAYING: "This type of project complements the three parts of sustainability; the environment, the social sector and the economy with alternative products." Vazquez says the farm isn't just about making money. SOUNDBITE: BIOLOGIST AT CROCODILE FARM, TIX-CHEL VAZQUEZ, SAYING: "The farm has a social commitment to the surrounding communities. For example, we have a farm located and set up where a community of biologists like us can get advice and receive consultations to form these types of projects as alternatives for country towns. Farming and agriculture is the only option for these ecosystems." "Cocodrilos Maya" has been breeding Morelets for ten years. Eggs hatch after about 45 days in a specially-made incubator and baby crocs are then moved to protected enclosures where they spend about four years until adulthood. More than six thousand crocodiles have been bred this way, producing quality skins for markets overseas. And, say authorities, when consumers buy skins from farmed crocodiles there are fewer opportunities for poachers. Tara Cleary, Reuters.