Crocodilians are the closest surviving relatives of the great dinosaurs. They have changed very little during the 150 million years that they have lived on Earth.

The Future?

Crocodilians play an important role in the ecology of their watery habitats. They act as scavengers, just as vultures, hyenas and jackals do on land, keeping the rivers and lakes clear of carrion (dead animals). They also eat large quantities of predatory fish, so helping to preserve suitable fish for humans.

Although legally protected in many places, crocodiles continue to be hunted. The best hope for their survival lies in the setting-up of sanctuaries within their existing habitats, where they are protected from hunters. Also, several projects have been started for breeding Nile crocodiles in captivity with the intention of restocking suitable rivers and lakes. Commercial crocodile farming is also being tried in a few countries, a small percentage of the crocodiles raised being used for restocking wild habitats, and the remainder used for skin products. It is most important that the skin trade is carefully monitored so that only farm-bred animals are used for leather goods. The illegal hunting of crocodilians must be stamped out if these interesting and useful reptiles are to survive in the wild.

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