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JIS News

The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is reminding the public that with the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season now underway, crocodile sightings will become more frequent. Coordinator of Flora and Fauna at NEPA’s Biodiversity Branch, Richard Nelson, told JIS News that, “crocodiles live in wetlands and rivers near the sea, because roads and recreation areas are being built close to these wetlands, the animal’s habitat is being encroached upon”. He further explained that, “the crocodiles move with the water and hence they turn up in areas where they are normally seen during drier times”.
Mr. Nelson said that although crocodiles might be seen more frequently during the hurricane season it was illegal to hunt, capture or kill them as they were protected under the Wild Life Protection Act. “The Wild Life Protection Act speaks to the protection of endangered animals such as crocodiles, and that is why it is prohibited for anyone to have any derivative of the animal, such as its skin or products made from it such as bags and handbags,” he explained, “any one found guilty of such an offence could be fined $100,000 or 12 months in prison”.
Mr. Nelson also emphasised that if crocodiles are being hunted then simultaneously the eco-system is being destroyed. “If crocodiles are being disturbed, and the marshes and mangroves are being degraded to the point of being gone, then the vital functions they perform will also disappear too. fish will disappear, the reefs will die, sedimentation of the seagrass bed will occur and the beaches will be gone”. He further stated that crocodiles must be protected, as they are a good indication of what was happening to wetlands.
“Crocodiles prefer secluded wetlands far away from humans, so if this large animal is leaving the wetlands and entering human areas, something is happening to the wetlands. Either its food source, fish is being depleted, or the wetland is being polluted, being dumped up or reclaimed,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Charles Swarby of Black River Safari pointed out that crocodiles are only dangerous if their habitat is being disturbed. He explained that since 1958, more people have sustained injuries from domestic animals such as cows, pigs and dogs than from crocodiles. Mr. Swarby noted that Jamaica is one of the few countries in the world that does not have an appropriate management programme for its crocodiles and was not utilizing the animals, without killing them, for the country’s benefit.