|An adult Crocodylus mindorensis basking.|
|Range of the Philippine crocodile in blue|
The Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis), also known as the Mindoro crocodile, the Philippine freshwater crocodile or locally, bukarot, is one of two species of crocodile that are found in the Philippines, the other is the larger Indo-Pacific crocodile or saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). The Philippine crocodile, the species endemic only to the country, became data deficient to critically endangered in 2008 from exploitation and unsustainable fishing methods, such as dynamite fishing. Conservation methods are being taken by the Dutch/Filipino Mabuwaya foundation, the Crocodile Conservation Society and the Zoological Institute of HerpaWorld in Mindoro island. It is strictly prohibited to kill a crocodile in the country, and it is punishable by law.
Taxonomy and etymology
The Philippine crocodile is a crocodilian endemic to the Philippines. It is a relatively small, freshwater crocodile. They have a relatively broad snout and thick bony plates on its back (heavy dorsal armor). This is a fairly small species, reaching breeding maturity at 1.5 m (4.9 ft) and 15 kg (33 lb) in both sexes and a maximum size of approximately 3.1 m (10 ft). Females are slightly smaller than males. Philippine crocodiles are golden-brown in color, which darkens as it matures.
Distribution and habitat
The Philippine crocodile is only found on the islands of the Philippines.
The Philippine crocodile has been extirpated in Samar, Jolo, Negros Island, Masbate, and Busuanga. There are still surviving population in the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park within the Luzon rainforest, San Mariano, Isabela, Dalupiri island in the Babuyan Islands, and Abra (province) in Luzon and the Ligawasan Marsh, Lake Sebu in South Cotabato, Pulangi River in Bukidnon and Possibly in the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Mindanao. It was historically found in parts of Visayas and until the numbers were drastically cut by, mainly, habitat destruction.
This species of crocodile is one of the most severely threatened crocodilian species. There are roughly 250 left in the wild as of September 2011 according to an article by National Geographic. Although this species was once found over the whole of the Philippines, it is now critically endangered. In addition to this, very little is known about the natural history or ecology of the species, or its relationship with the Crocodylus porosus, whose range it overlaps. More surveys are required to determine the present range. Initial population reduction was through commercial exploitation, although the current threat is mainly from removal of suitable habitat for agricultural purposes to satisfy a rapidly expanding human population. There is also very limited governmental support for any conservation measures, and the crocodiles are often killed by the local populace. This situation needs to be changed through awareness programs. Long-term captive breeding and release (through PWRCC, Silliman University and international breeding centres) is judged to be the best course to take at the present time, although it is imperative that a management program is drawn up for the remainder of the wild population (most of which resides in only one protected area). In 1992, there were estimated to be fewer than 1000 animals in the wild. In 1995, that estimate was revised to be no more than 100 non-hatchlings (note: hatchlings are rarely counted in surveys because their survivorship is so low).
In 2007, a specialist group has been founded by several people within the Philippines, involved in crocodilian conservation. The Crocodile Conservation Society Philippines and the Zoological Institute of HerpaWorld working on Conservation Breeding and Release Programs. Crocodylus mindorensis was considered locally extinct in part of its former range in Northern Luzon until a live specimen was caught in San Mariano, Isabela in 1999. That individual, nicknamed 'Isabela' by its captors, was given to the care of the Crocodile Rehabilitation Observance and Conservation until it was released in August 2007. The specimen was 1.6 meters long at the time of its release.
The Philippine crocodile became nationally protected by law in 2001 with the enactment of Republic Act 9147 known as the Wildlife Act. It is punishable to kill a crocodile carrying a maximum penalty of ₱100,000 (equivalent to about $2,500). The Philippine Senate introduced Resolution no. 790 on May 31, 2012 to further strengthen and augment existing laws for the protection of the Philippine crocodile and the saltwater crocodile.
This crocodile was featured in National Geographic's Dangerous Encounters hosted by crocodile specialist Dr. Brady Barr. In one of the episodes, Barr was seeking to be the first person to see all species of crocodile in the world. Fortunately, he was able to see a Philippine crocodile of only about two weeks old.
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