Crocodilians comprise a variety of large reptiles including alligators, crocodiles, caiman and gharials found around the world. Many of these species are threatened by the leather trade and thus are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).


Young American alligator
Credit: D. Scott Lipsey/USFWS

The American alligator is an example of a species that has recovered thanks to increased trade regulations. Found primarily in the southeastern region of the United States, it is one of two living species of alligator. It has been hunted since the 19th century for its valuable leather and, until the 1960s, the trade was largely unregulated.

By the middle of the 20th century, American alligator populations were severely depleted. In 1962 commercial and recreational hunting was outlawed across the country, and in 1967, it was listed under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 (a precursor to the Endangered Species Act of 1973). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) worked closely with state wildlife agencies to monitor and protect the species through reintroduction and captive breeding on alligator farms (ranching). Alligator farms maintain a sustainable level of trade, regulate the capture of wild specimens, and allow for wild populations to rebound.

Laws & Regulations

Today, the American alligator has fully recovered thanks to careful management and ranching on alligator farms. CITES and the ESA maintain regulations on American alligators to ensure its continued protection while allowing for a sustainable leather trade.

In addition to the American alligator, all other crocodilian species are protected under CITES. To find out more about these species, be sure to visit the CITES Species Database.

To find out more about importing and exporting the American alligator and other crocodilians under CITES, visit our Branch of Permits page.