Worldwide, crocodiles and all wetland wildlife face one great problem: habitat loss. Jamaica is no exception. The increase in urbanization, tourism-related development, and other human activities create a conservation challenge for the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus). In Jamaica a recent upsurge in poaching has further endangered crocodiles.
The need for a conservation and management plan in Jamaica is urgent, however there is little information available on the occurrence and status of crocodiles in the country. Populations appear scattered and small and are greatly threatened by conflict with humans. Population growth and need for economic development in Jamaica encroaches on crocodile habitat, contributing to ongoing habitat loss. In recent years, an increasing demand for crocodile meat has fueled widespread poaching. All of these factors place the future of the American crocodile in Jamaica in dire peril.
The National Environment and Planning Agency of Jamaica (NEPA) and The Croc Docs Laboratory at the University of Florida are ready to meet this challenge.
The path to conservation of American crocodiles in Jamaica includes several components.
Components of the project:
- Conduct a countrywide survey of crocodiles and their habitats
- Ensure the protection of existing habitats and identify critical conservation areas for crocodiles
- Develop a public education program and raise awareness
- Elaborate a comprehensive conservation plan for American crocodiles in Jamaica
As apex predator, the American crocodile has an important role to play in the quality of the wetland habitats where the species live. The surveys on the field will help to get more information, to learn more about the species’ populations in the country, and to identify the critical conservation areas. A public education program, a human crocodile interaction plan and the enforcement of the Wild Life Protection Act aim to fight against increasing human hunting pressure. On the basis of the results of the surveys a conservation plan for American crocodiles in Jamaica will be elaborated with local authorities and applied on a national scale.
The Croc Docs Laboratory
The Croc Docs are a team of biologists and outreach specialists from the University of Florida on the forefront of wildlife research in South Florida and the Caribbean.
They work in close collaboration with federal, state, local, and tribal agencies to identify and respond to pressing wildlife management needs and provide scientific support for Everglades restoration.
A large focus of their work is long-term research and monitoring of threatened and endangered species such as the threatened American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), at the northern extent of its range, and the critically endangered Central American river turtle (hicatee) in Belize.