Sustainable Utilization

Within the context of international trade, all species of living crocodilians are listed on the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) - on either Appendix I or Appendix II:

Appendix I: “shall include all species threatened with extinction which are or may be affected by trade. Trade in specimens of these species must be subject to particularly strict regulation in order not to endanger further their survival and must only be authorized in exceptional circumstances.”

Appendix II: “shall include […] all species which although not necessarily now threatened with extinction may become so, unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival”.

Current CITES Listings of Crocodilian Species

Species  Common Name Listing
Alligator mississippiensis American Alligator II
Alligator sinensis Chinese Alligator I
Caiman crocodilus Spectacled Caiman I & II
   C. c. apaporiensis Rio Apaporis Caiman I
   C. c. crocodilus Spectacled Caiman II
   C. c. fuscus Brown Caiman II
Caiman latirostris Broad-nosed Caiman I & II
Caiman yacare Yacare Caiman II
Crocodylus acutus American Crocodile I & II
Crocodylus cataphractus African Slender-snouted Crocodile I
Crocodylus intermedius Orinoco Crocodile I
Crocodylus johnstoni Australian Freshwater Crocodile II
Crocodylus mindorensis Philippine Crocodile I
Crocodylus moreletii Morelet’s Crocodile I & II
Crocodylus niloticus Nile Crocodile I & II
Crocodylus novaeguineae New Guinea Crocodile II
Crocodylus palustris Mugger Crocodile I
Crocodylus porosus Saltwater Crocodile I & II
Crocodylus rhombifer Cuban Crocodile I
Crocodylus siamensis Siamese Crocodile I
Gavialis gangeticus Gharial I
Melanosuchus niger Black Caiman I & II
Osteolaemus tetraspis Dwarf Crocodile I
Paleosuchus palpebrosus Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman II
Paleosuchus trigonatus Schneider's Smooth-fronted Caiman II
Tomistoma schlegelii Tomistoma

Some crocodilian species are abundant in the wild (eg Caiman crocodilus, Crocodylus niloticus), in parts or the whole of their former range, whereas others are truly endangered (eg Alligator sinensis, Crocodylus mindorensis, Gavialis gangeticus). Together with efforts to improve the status of endangered species of wild crocodilians around the world over the last 30 years have been efforts to re-establish international trade on a legal and sustainable basis.

Sustainable use can be defined as: “use of wildlife associated with a process aimed at ensuring the use can continue indefinitely and that its impacts are maintained within prescribed limits.” In practical terms this usually means “use associated with a management program that aims to sustain the harvest program” indefinitely and ensure “adverse impacts are avoided or minimized.”

There are many good examples of conservation benefits being linked directly to trade, although some problems remain with some species in certain countries. The economic importance of crocodilians has often led directly to stronger institutional arrangements for their conservation and ongoing management. Despite predictions that legal trade would encourage illegal trade, an outstanding result of market-driven conservation of crocodilians is that illegal trade has all but been eradicated in the face of well-regulated legal trade.

The type of commercial use of crocodilians varies between species and countries, and largely reflects the status of populations, their abundance, national priorities with regard to uses considered acceptable and well-established concepts about the risks of harvesting different life stages. Within the context of CITES, consumptive use of crocodilians fits into three broad categories:

  1. Captive Breeding (CB), production of eggs from captive adults;
  2. Ranching (R), collection of eggs, hatchlings or juveniles from the wild, that are raised in captivity; and,
  3. Wild Harvest (W), direct harvest of crocodilians from the wild.

Use Programs for Crocodilian Species
R = ranching; CB = captive breeding; W = wild harvest; (ud) = under development.
    Species Use Country
    Alligator mississippiensis CB, R, W USA
    Alligator sinensis CB China
    Caiman crocodilus W Nicaragua, Guyana, Bolivia, Paraguay
    Caiman crocodilus CB Colombia
    Caiman crocodilus CB, R (ud) Brazil
    Caiman crocodilus R, W Venezuela
    Caiman yacare R Argentina
    Caiman yacare W, CB Bolivia
    Caiman yacare CB Brazil
    Caiman yacare W Paraguay
    Caiman latirostris R Argentina
    Crocodylus acutus CB Honduras, Colombia
    Crocodylus acutus R Cuba
    Crocodylus johnstoni CB, R, W Australia
    Crocodylus moreletii CB Mexico
    Crocodylus niloticus CB, R South Africa, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Kenya
    Crocodylus niloticus R, W Tanzania
    Crocodylus niloticus R Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, Uganda, Ethiopia
    Crocodylus novaeguineae R, W Papua New Guinea, Indonesia
    Crocodylus porosus CB China, Malaysia, Singapore, Viet Nam, Thailand, Philippines
    Crocodylus porosus CB, R, W Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea
    Crocodylus rhombifer CB Cuba
    Crocodylus siamensis CB Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam
    Melanosuchus niger W Brazil

    Suggested reading:

    Hutton, J., Ross, P. and Webb, G. (2002). A review: Using the market to create incentives for the sustainable use of crocodilians. Pp. 382-399 in Crocodiles. Proceedings of the 16th Working Meeting of the IUCN-SSC Crocodile Specialist Group. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland.

    MacGregor, J. (2006). The Call of the Wild: Captive Crocodilian Production and the Shaping of Conservation Incentives. TRAFFIC International: Cambridge, UK.

    Webb, G.J.W., Brook, B., Whitehead, P. and Manolis, S.C. (2004). Wildlife management principles and practices in crocodile conservation and sustainable use. Pp. 84-91 in Crocodiles. Proceedings of the 17th Working Meeting of the IUCN-SSC Crocodile Specialist Group. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland.