Crocodiles and alligators-A A +A
By Rox Peña
Thursday, February 28, 2013
LOLONG, the world’s largest crocodile held in captivity, died last February 10. The much feared killer reptile who later gained celebrity status was estimated to be 50 years old.
According to DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, Lolong probably died of pneumonia and cardiac arrest.
But Lolong’s short lived-stay in captivity may not go to waste. Expert said that Lolong's case could lead to a better understanding of the condition of crocodiles in the wild as well as how to better manage them while in captivity.
Crocodiles maybe dangerous to humans but they play a vital role in our ecosystem. For instance, Lolong and its fellow crocodiles have an important part in keeping the Agusan Marsh healthy. Based on many materials I read in the internet, crocodiles are even called “keystone” species. They have an important part in their habitat’s ecosystem.
According to http://www.proserpineecotours.com.au/crocs.htm, crocodiles help keep the balance in the complex web of life in freshwater and estuarine ecosystems. They are key predators at the top of the food chain and eat a wide range of prey. The crocodile plays an important role in keeping a wetland ecosystem healthy. Did you know that the crocodile’s feces is the food of other animals in the ecosystem?
Sadly, crocodiles are now endangered due to the destruction of their habitat. They are hunted too for their leather and meat. The skin of the saltwater crocodile, especially from the belly surfaces, is the most prized of all crocodilian skins for fashion leather.
But hunting and conservation can go side by side. I watched with great interest an episode in the History Channel which featured the hunting practices of the swamp people of Louisiana. They make a living hunting down alligators, the cousins of the crocodiles.
According to the website of the History Channel (www.history.com), Alligator hunting is managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, which only allows licensed hunters to participate and restricts their activity. Alligator hunters must obtain a license and
a limited number of tags from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries. One tag corresponds to one alligator.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries only distributes tags for areas containing sufficient alligator habitat that it has determined capable of sustaining an alligator harvest. This alligator management program is one of the world's most recognizable examples of a wildlife conservation success story, and has been used as a model for managing various crocodilian species around the world.
Louisiana's wild alligator population is estimated at roughly 1.5 million animals. Another 500,000 live on alligator farms.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on March 01, 2013.