U.S. Marks 40 Years Of Species Protection

Published on 31 December 2013

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by Office of the Spokesperson


Washington, D.C.


The recovery of the Morelet's crocodile is a success story of endangered species protection in the Western Hemisphere. Renewed populations of this American reptile give cause to celebrate as the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) marked its 40th anniversary on December 28, 2013.

The Morelet's crocodile was "delisted" in 2012 — taken off the U.S. list of endangered species — because the protections in place for decades allowed populations to recover to a sustainable level.

The Morelet's crocodile, native to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, has a thick, soft skin that makes attractive leather. Through the mid-20th century, hunters bagged the animal to sell the skin, severely reducing the population. Regulations issued under ESA banned sales of the distinctive crocodile leather and stripped the profit from the enterprise.

The species has rebounded and numbers across its range have returned to that of other native crocodile species not deemed endangered.

The U.S. law works in concert with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which also became 40 years old in 2013. It now has 178 member nations. The two legal regimens came of age together and contributed to a heightened global awareness about the importance of ecosystem preservation and protecting the web of life.

"There is still work to be done," said acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Pat Gallagher in recognition of the anniversary, "but our goal remains to work together to save as many species as we can from extinction.”

More than 1,500 plant and animal species are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, granting them special protection under the law.



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Posted 2013-12-31 17:40:00