Species name: Cuban crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer)
Where found: The Cuban crocodile once existed on quite a few Caribbean islands. Today it can only be found in two small areas of Cuba: Zapata Swamp on mainland Cuba and Lanier Swamp on the Isle of Youth. The two swamps total less than 400 square kilometers of habitat.
IUCN Red List status: Critically endangered.
Major threats: Historically, hunting and habitat degradation have been the driving force behind this species’ disappearance. More recently, however, a new threat has emerged: hybridization. A 2011 study found that the Cuban crocs have been breeding with American crocodiles (C. acutus), which have always lived in Cuba but have found new homes in Cuba’s increasingly salty freshwater habitats (a side effect of agricultural development). The DNA study found that that the two species are already closely related but warned that increasing hybridization could wipe out the Cuban species.
Notable conservation programs: Several zoos and crocodile farms have Cuban crocodile breeding programs, and the Isle of Youth population only exists because of a captive-breeding reintroduction effort, but experts say more monitoring, research and protection are required.
Photo by Heather Paul via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license
Previous Sunday Snapshots:
Secrets of the Universe: Past, Present, FutureX