This month 36 Philippine freshwater crocodiles were introduced into the wild on Siargao Island, in an effort to bolster the population of this endangered reptile. The Philippine freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis), also called the Mindoro crocodile, is found only in the Philippines.
The Philippine crocodile shares the island chain with the much more common Indo-Pacific crocodile or saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). The Philippine freshwater crocodile is listed as critically endangered by IUCN.
Six male and 30 female Philippine crocodiles were released in the Paghowangan Marsh near the village of Barangay in the municipality of Pilar in Surigao del Norte. All the animals were yearlings.
“Based on our assessment, it will balance the ecosystem of the area, considering that Philippine crocodiles have reduced in number for many years already. We hope it will enrich the ecosystem, enrich the waters, and make more species thrive,” the director of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB), Mundita Lim, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The released crocodiles were bred in captivity. In the marsh, they will live in a semi-controlled area that extends 300 acres (120 hectares) in the dry season and more than 1,500 acres (600 hectares) in the wet season.
Lim told the paper that although some people do live in the area, they already tolerate the presence of saltwater crocodiles, so he called it a “benign introduction.”
The released animals are being tagged for tracking. They are expected to dine on fish and frogs, and the species generally avoids people.
The Philippine freshwater crocodile is sometimes called the world’s most endangered species of crocodilian. There are an estimated 250 left in the wild.
Philippine crocodiles are smaller than saltwater crocodiles, and reach a maximum size of 10 feet (3.1 meters). In contrast, a massive saltwater crocodile that was 21 feet long (6.4 meters) was recently captured in the Philippines.
Female Philippine crocodiles are slightly smaller than the males. Both sexes have broad snouts and heavy armor. They are golden-brown in color, although their skin darkens as they age.
The species declined due to hunting and dynamite fishing, although it received national protection in 2001.
Brian Clark Howard covers the environment for National Geographic. He previously served as an editor for TheDailyGreen.com and E/The Environmental Magazine, and has written for Popular Science, TheAtlantic.com, FastCompany.com, PopularMechanics.com, Yahoo!, MSN, and elsewhere. He is the co-author of six books, including Geothermal HVAC, Green Lighting, Build Your Own Small Wind Power System, and Rock Your Ugly Christmas Sweater.