The fate of a crocodile species considered as Africa’s newest and rarest is being tied to a zoo in the heart of Ivory Coast’s economic capital Abidjan, which faced an uncertain future not long ago.
The crocodile is slender and snouted and was discovered by an American scientist in the zoo itself but now it’s in struggle to survive.
“Essentially what we did, we kind of looked at some of the historic literature, and I don’t mean from 20 or 30 years ago, I mean from 150 years ago at what some of these very early British and French natural historians were recognising about crocodiles across the landscape and what they were describing as unique species, based on what characters and why, and some of them made sense, or maybe made sense. Some of them didn’t. We kind of overlaid some of those hypotheses about species on the landscape, on the west and central African landscape and said ok, we’ve got a bunch of deserts here, we’ve got a mountain chain here, we’ve got habitat that’s totally inappropriate here, its never been appropriate for the past 20 thousand years. So what does that mean for those crocodile populations, “ said conservation biologist Matt Shirley, who discovered the West African Slender-snouted crocodile species.
The zoo also has a breeding programme for the crocodiles and is receiving assistance from partner organisations in the United States. So far, the breeding efforts have produced around 40 young crocodiles.
Some of young crocodiles are now two years old, and Shirley is negotiating with the government to reintroduce them into the wild – first in Ivory Coast and then elsewhere in West Africa. Today, no more than 1,500 West African Slender-snouted Crocodile are believed to exist in the wild, scattered across a territory extending from Gambia to Nigeria.