June 25, 2013
Successful Conservation Effort in Argentina Leads to Endangered Species Reclassification, Carefully Regulated Trade
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a final rulemaking that reclassifies the Argentinian population of the broad-snouted caiman from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A longstanding and successful management effort to increase the numbers of this crocodilian species has made it possible to reduce the restrictions on the Argentinian population (called a “distinct population segment” (DPS) under the ESA), and include it in a special rule which allows carefully monitored and regulated trade. Inclusion in this special rule will enable trade in broad-snouted caiman parts and products originating from Argentina only.
The species has been listed as endangered throughout its range since 1976, mainly as a result of illegal harvest for its valuable hide and an overall loss of wetland habitat. The species is found in northeast Argentina, southeast Bolivia, Paraguay, and northern Uruguay. Intensive and largely successful management efforts conducted by Argentina to bolster the population of this species led to that country submitting a petition to the Service in 2007 requesting a reclassification under the ESA.
The Service has found that Argentina’s caiman population is widespread throughout its historic range and its nesting areas are expanding. Broad-snouted caiman are even being seen in areas from which they had previously disappeared. Argentina’s intensive management efforts and enforcement of all applicable international laws and treaties have been successful in increasing its caiman population. The key to this enhancement program involved the cooperation of farmers and ranchers to gather the eggs from the nests, rear the young, and then release them back to the wild.
In 1975, broad-snouted caiman was placed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), effectively prohibiting international commercial trade in the species and its parts and products. By 1997, Argentina’s caiman population had begun to increase due to the success of their ranching program and was subsequently down-listed to Appendix II, allowing limited trade in hides subject to a strict tagging and permitting program.
However, the broad-snouted caiman was prohibited from commercial import into the United States due to its endangered status under the ESA. The reclassification of broad-snouted caiman to threatened will allow for limited commercial import of caiman hides and products, aligning U.S. domestic law with the view of the international community on trade in this population.
The status of the species in Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, or elsewhere, remains unchanged and these populations will continue to be fully protected by the ESA. The population of this species within these other countries is described as a separate DPS which remains listed as endangered, and subsequently, there are no provisions for trade. A species-wide down-listing cannot be considered at this time owing to a lack of population and monitoring information from the other range countries.
The final rulemaking describing these actions was published in the June 25, 2013, edition of the Federal Register. For additional information, go to http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-06-25/pdf/2013-15006.pdf
For photos of the species, see http://flic.kr/s/aHsjGmYecE
The ESA provides a critical safety net for fish, wildlife and plants and has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species, as well as promoting the recovery of many others. The Service is actively engaged with conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species.
To learn more about the Endangered Species program’s Branch of Foreign Species, visit: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/international-activities.html.
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