Earthwatch scientist Dr. Alison Leslie has come to the rescue of a four-metre-long Nile crocodile whose fearlessness of humans resulted in it lunging at visitors at the Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana.
As human populations continue to increase and encroach on wildlife habitat, conflict between humans and Nile crocodiles in Africa is on the increase. Such incidents have recently been reported in 17 African countries, and Leslie receives reports of "problem" animals about once a month in the Okavango Delta region of Botswana.
Leslie's work with teams on the Earthwatch-supported Crocodiles of the Okavango project is designed to examine the habitat needs of wild crocodiles, determine their impact on local human populations, and recommend conservation solutions. She has just received permits, and already has the land and local support to start a community-run crocodile farm, that will stem hunting pressure on wild populations and provide a sustainable local economy.
Leslie, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Conservation Ecology at University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, said, 'The Nile crocodile is threatened over much of its range in sub-Saharan Africa and relocation is one of the many suggested management policies that we hope will alleviate conflict.'
'Animals such as this one will not be shot, but instead, captured and used as future breeding stock. A certain percentage of the offspring will be released into the wild, while the rest will be sold to farmers, thereby establishing a sustainable utilisation programme directly benefiting the communities themselves.'
The relocation effort also captured the attention of Botswana wildlife authorities, who were invited to assist and see, for the first time, how a crocodile can be captured and transported. Their growing interest has led to Leslie's team leading a training workshop for wildlife students and conservation officials, planned for August. This kind of impact is crucial, as wildlife authorities in Botswana currently lack the resources and expertise to effectively assess wild crocodile populations and alleviate conflicts.
Lesley concluded, 'As a result of our work, the "problem" crocodile, is no longer such a problem and will still contribute to the next generation of Okavango crocodiles. More importantly, we have created local awareness of this issue and started to change views on crocodile conservation in Botswana.'
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Photo credit: ©William Bartlett/EWE