CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 9 . . . . December 22, 2006
As concerns grow about the state of environments across our planet, the “Firefly Animal Rescue” series is doing its best to bring the plight of endangered species to our attention. In this latest book, it's encouraging to learn some good news: of 23 species of crocodilians listed as vulnerable or endangered in 1971, only eight remain on that list.
This turnaround has been aided by some creative conservation measures that might seem at odds with projects described in other “Animal Rescue” titles. After serious declines in population of American alligators in the 1960s due to overhunting, a management program promoted hunting to generate funds to save alligator habitat. "Traders and conservationists realized that if crocs were extinct, we'd both be out of business," says Perran Ross, a University of Florida professor and expert with the Crocodile Specialist Group. The idea spread; now countries around the world have similar programs, and some species' populations are growing. Caiman ranching in Argentina is one such example, where thriving caimans make good economic sense for people and keep wetlands intact. The book also points out how ecotourism has benefitted crocodilian populations in various countries.
It was interesting to learn that captive breeding may not always be the most enlightened conservation program. This books explains how wild croc populations diminish if too many are captured and sold to breeders. Sometimes hybrids result, a situation meaning pure breeds could be in danger. Good croc habitat may continue to disappear if people feel it's no longer important. Meantime, studies are ongoing regarding the effects of pollution and global warming on these reptiles.
The book provides ample comments about our traditionally negative attitude toward crocs. They "are widely loathed - especially for their dining habits," and we learn they are targeted for their skin, meat and oil. There is less emphasis on references to their value as part of the environment, though. That they are a "keystone species" that "help maintain wetlands" is only briefly explained on page 48: "In the wild, crocs are at the top of the food chain, and so they keep prey species in check by feeding on them, provide food for others that prey on their eggs and young, and enrich the water and marine life through nutrients in their waste." Praise and respect for their hunting skills (stealth and surprise), is tempered by a rather misguided remark from professor Ross, "Vehicles kill thousands of people every year, and yet we love them in spite of their being killers."
Author Trish Snyder has an engaging, easy-reading style that will appeal to young readers as well as adults. As expected with this series, the photographs are top quality and enhance the information in the text.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.