Proyecto Vida Silvestre Releases 20 Critically Endangered Orinoco Crocodiles Into Tuparro National Park
20 Orinoco Crocodiles (Crocodylus Intermedius) were reintroduced into their natural habitat this month, in the Tuparro National Park, the same environment that received 21 crocodiles in May of last year. Orinoco Crocodiles (Caimán Llanero in Spanish) are a critically endangered species with very few remaining in the wild.
The latest group of crocodiles released includes 12 females and 8 males, all approximately 1 meter long. Fully grown, the crocodiles can exceed 5 meters (17 feet) in length. As with the first group released, the crocodiles, known locally as Caimans, carry radio transmitters for tracking and to monitor their wellbeing. The area of the park selected for their release is on the right bank of the Tomo River, in the Colombian department of Vichada.
The area of Tuparro National Park is rich with biodiversity, including jaguars, pumas, otter, tapir, and curassow, as well a wide variety of the crocodile’s main food: fish. The area of the Tomo River where the crocodiles were released is near the Marandúa Air Force Base, which will help guarantee the security of the habitat, along with facilitating access to the area for researchers monitoring the crocodiles’ progress.
This release is part of the Proyecto Vida Silvestre, that has worked since 2014 for the conservation of 10 endangered flora and fauna species in Colombia’s eastern plains and middle Magdalena (River) region. The program is led by WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) Colombia and financed by Ecopetrol, Colombia’s state-controlled petroleum producer, along with the help of the Mario Santo Domingo Foundation. Vida Silvestre works with ten organizations, one for each species.
In the Orinoco Crocodile’s case, the Fundación Palmarito has been working to save this species since 2011, with cooperation from the government of the Casanare department, Corporinoquia, the Colombian national park system, and Grupo GHL, a large Colombian hotel operator.
The Colombian environment ministry, Minambiente, has been trying to save the Orinoco Crocodiles since 1998. Intense commercial hunting of the crocodiles for their hides during the middle of the 20th century demolished populations to a critical level, with the reptiles facing extinction. The Orinoco Crocodile lives exclusively in the lower reaches of the Orinoco river watershed, in Colombia and Venezuela. It reproduces once a year.
Photo credit: Pato Salcedo; Courtesy of Ecopetrol