Press Release
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Finding on Status of Broad-snouted Caiman

January 5, 2012

Contacts:
Vanessa Kauffman
703-358-2138
vanessa_kauffman@fws.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today announced a 12-month finding on a petition and a proposed rule to reclassify the broad-snouted caiman population in Argentina from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This will also constitute a five-year review for the species.

The Service proposes to establish the Argentina population of the broad-snouted caiman as a distinct population segment (DPS) of this species. Intense management of the species in Argentina has brought the Argentina DPS to the point where a change in status is appropriate.

The Service also proposes the Argentina population of broad-snouted caiman be included in the special rule for trade in crocodilian species. Inclusion in this special rule would allow trade in broad-snouted caiman parts and products originating from Argentina only.

On November 5, 2007, the Service received a petition from the Government of Argentina to reclassify the broad-snouted caiman in Argentina from endangered to threatened. This species has been listed under the ESA as endangered throughout its range since June 14, 1976. The primary factor leading to the listing of the broad-snouted caiman species under the ESA was overutilization for the skin trade. In its analysis, the Service found fewer threats to the species in the wild in Argentina; however, the Service finds the DPS is still threatened by the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range. The downlisting “threatened” determination for Argentina is based on the following information:
  • The population is widespread throughout its historic range in Argentina, and it is found in comparable densities relative to other species of crocodilians.
  • Enforcement of existing national and international laws and treaties has minimized the potential impact of trade in Argentina.
  • Exports from Argentina are carefully managed and commercial exports are limited to those caiman from managed programs.
  • All indications suggest that Argentina has been successful in increasing its population of this species through intensive management efforts.
  • Reproductive females previously released by the management program have been located and are being monitored.
  •  There has been an expansion of nesting areas.
  • Caimans have been observed in locations where they had previously disappeared.
  • Age classes reflect healthy reproduction and recruitment into a wild breeding population.

The downlisting of this DPS from endangered to threatened in Argentina would not change the endangered status of the species in Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, or elsewhere where it would remain fully protected by the ESA. In addition, this species is also listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in all range countries except Argentina. CITES is an international agreement to regulate global trade in certain wild animals and plants that are, or could become, threatened with extinction due to commercial trade. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction and restricts commercial trade in listed species. In 1997, the Argentina population was downlisted to CITES Appendix II. Appendix II species are those which are not necessarily now threatened with extinction, but may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival. This downlisting to Appendix II eased trade restrictions and allows for regulated commercial trade in this species originating from Argentina, unless otherwise prohibited by domestic law.

Currently, there are about 590 foreign species, compared to about 1,382 species native to the United States that are listed under the ESA. While the Service has no regulatory jurisdiction in foreign countries, the ESA requires the agency to protect species as endangered if they are in danger of extinction, and as threatened if they are likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future, regardless of which country the species lives in.

Listing foreign species under the ESA can generate conservation benefits such as increased awareness of listed species, which may improve local and national support for research efforts to address conservation needs and/or generate funding for in-situ conservation of the species in its range countries. The ESA provides for limited financial assistance to develop and manage programs to conserve listed species in foreign countries, encourages conservation programs for such species, and allows for assistance for programs, such as personnel and training.

Grant opportunities exist for critically endangered species that face an extremely high risk of extinction in the immediate future. To find information on the Service’s Wildlife Without Borders-Critically Endangered Animals Conservation Fund, please visit http://www.fws.gov/international/DIC/global/ceacf.html

This proposed rule to downlist the broad-snouted caiman in Argentina to threatened under the ESA constitutes the Service’s 12-month finding (status review) that the petitioned action is warranted. The proposed rule published in the Federal Register on January 5, 2012. It is also available online at http://www.fws.gov/policy/frsystem/default.cfm by clicking on the 2012 Proposed Rules under Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.

Written comments and information concerning this proposal can be submitted by one of the following methods:

Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS–R9–ES–2010–0089]; or U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS–R9–ES–2010–0089]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

Comments must be received within 60 days, on or before March 5, 2012. The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes.

The Service particularly seeks clarifying information:
  • New biological, trade, or other relevant information and data concerning any threat (or lack thereof) to the broad-snouted caiman, and regulations that may be addressing those threats. Also, we are particularly interested in new information that indicates the species no longer meets the definition of endangered in any part of its range.
  • New information and data on whether or not climate change is a threat to the broad-snouted caiman, what regional climate change models are available, and whether they are reliable and credible to use as a step-down model for assessing the effects of climate change on the species and its habitat.
  • The location of any additional populations of broad-snouted caiman.
  • New information concerning the range, distribution, and population size and population trends of the broad-snouted caiman in the wild.
  • New information on the current or planned activities within the geographic range of the broad-snouted caiman that may impact or benefit the species.
  •  New information concerning captive-breeding operations in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
  • New information and data on the broad-snouted caiman in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay that would enhance our analysis of whether or not these two populations qualify as a DPS under the ESA, and whether or not these populations warrant continued protection under the Act.
  • Information concerning the status and results of monitoring actions for the broad-snouted caiman, including those implemented under the CITES.

The Service intends that any final action resulting from this proposed rule will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and be as accurate and as effective as possible. If this proposed rule is finalized, the broad-snouted caiman will remain listed as endangered in other parts of its range, and the protections under the provisions of CITES will not change.

The ESA provides a critical safety net for native fish, wildlife and plants and to date has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species across the nation, and foreign species in trade, as well as promoted 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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