Thursday, November 08, 2012

How to save Orinoco crocodiles

Orinoco crocodile, Photo by Roger Manrique

The Orinoco crocodile, Crocodylus intermedius, is a Critically Endangered species found only in restricted areas of Colombia and Venezuela. It's one of a handful of croc species that are in serious trouble right now, but there are ways in which you can make a difference. The easiest of these is to raise funds to support an active and effective conservation and management program, and right now you're in luck because the Christmas Croc Fest 2012 is raising money for such an program. We'll be highlighting more ways in which you can make a difference to crocodilian conservation efforts around the world in the coming months, so right now it's the turn of C. intermedius to bask in the spotlight of concern. I'll hand you over to the organising committee for the Croc Fest after the break, and they'll tell you exactly why you need to attend.

On December 8, 2012, Shawn Heflick, Flavio Morrissiey, Curt Harbsmeier, and Colette Adams will partner once again to raise money for another critically endangered crocodile species – the Orinoco crocodile, Crocodylus intermedius. At an event hosted at the home of Shawn and Jen Heflick in Palm Bay, Florida, we seek to raise USD $10,000.00 for Asociación Chelonia, a Madrid-based NGO that has already made great progress in getting a comprehensive conservation program underway for Orinoco crocodiles in Colombia.  

Thanks to the generosity and commitment of both the private sector and zoos, over the past four years, nearly $25,000 has been raised for endangered crocodiles. ALL proceeds go straight to the crocodile project, with expenses covered by the organizers. So, if you are not going to be able to make it, auction items and/or cash donations will be greatly appreciated. Checks can be made out to Gladys Porter Zoo and sent to the address below.

This is FUN all day event! There will be BBQ, libations, live music and live animal presentations. There will also be tours of Shawn’s facility. Bring the family, and enjoy swimming, kayaking, canoeing and fishing in the 2 acre spring-fed lake on the property (bring your own poles, etc).

About the Program
Commercial hunting of the Orinoco crocodile began around 1929, and from that time to 1960, it is estimated that between 2 and 4 million crocodiles were killed in both Venezuela and Colombia. Surveys now reveal that the total wild population of Orinoco crocodiles in Colombia is likely less than 130 individuals, down from an estimated 780 in 1974-1975.

The majority of the remaining population of this species in Colombia is located in the area where the work of Asociación Chelonia is taking place. Its program, initiated in 2010, began with surveys of the wild population in conjunction with evaluation of the crocodiles’ ecosystems.  With much of the groundwork for this project already laid, its proposed activities over the next two years include the following:
  • Identify an adequate site for a headstart and release program, with accessibility for follow-up and enforcement of protection laws in mind
  • Work with landowners to create a private reserve for a pilot reintroduction program
  • Continue to conduct local and national education campaigns, including the development of web pages for children, educators and biologists
  • Develop publications on the 6 species of crocodilians in Colombia and distribute these free-of-charge to educational, environmental and conservation-based entities
The budget that has been developed to conduct these activities is USD $194,404.00.  Over $120,000.00 has already been raised, with support from such organizations as the Endowment Fund for Biodiversity (France), the Biodiversity Foundation (Spain), and ANP – Natural Protected Areas – in Colombia.

About Asociación Chelonia
Dedicated to the creation of scientific conservation partnerships for sustainable human development and the conservation of nature, Asociación Chelonia was formed in 1997 by the Students of Biological Sciences, Madrid.  It is established at ten sites within Spanish territories and has permanent offices in six other countries. In addition to its work with Orinoco crocodiles in Colombia, its focus areas include amphibian decline, climate change and sea turtle conservation. In 2010, Asociación Chelonia entered into a five-year cooperative agreement with Corporinoquia (the government environmental authority in Colombia) to work together on the Orinoco Crocodile Conservation Project. Additionally, this first-ever targeted release program was included as one action item in the 1998-2008 National Program for the Conservation of Orinoco Crocodiles in Colombia.

For more on Asociación Chelonia and its work, go to For event info, see or contact this event’s organizers: Shawn Heflick <>, Curt Harbsmeier <>, Colette Adams <> and Flavio Morissiey <>

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