Crocodiles have long figured in religious beliefs, myths, and folktales around the world. It is not surprising that such huge, ancient looking, and dangerous reptiles should inspire fear, respect, and awe from the human race. Nile crocodiles were mummified and buried with the pharaohs of Egypt. The Hindu river goddess, Ma Ganga, sometimes sits astride a mugger crocodile, and more than one New Guinean indigenous creation myth features the saltwater crocodile. At the same time, indigenous people all over the world have considered crocodiles a wonderful source of tasty eggs and meat. The real challenge to the survival of this ancient reptile's lineage started in the later nineteenth century when the slaughter for skin began. Crocodile leather demand reached its peak
in the mid-twentieth century, when over a million skins were being traded per year.
Conservation efforts with sustainable use at the forefront started in the early 1970s and quickly reversed the fate of several endangered crocodiles. Today, up to half a million crocodile skins are traded internationally each year, more than half from farms and ranches.
1. Mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris); 2. Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus); 3. Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus); 4. American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus); 5. Johnstone's crocodile (Crocodylus johnstonii). (Illustration by Brian Cressman)
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