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On Jul 12, 2012 07:05AM ET in Green 101
Eating crocodile is not considered wildly outlandish here in the states (people eat it in the south) but when it’s a critically endangered species it becomes a problem. A recent story released this week reported that Beijing police had seized 3,600 Siamese crocodiles who they believe were destined for dinner plates in Southern China.
The smugglers had crossed the China-Vietnam border with the crocodiles, which weighed a total of 17 tons. According to the Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency, 42 of the crocodiles died from heat stroke during transportation and the rest were evaluated by veterinarians. The smugglers intended to supply the crocs to restaurants in the Guangdong province to be served as exotic cuisine to locals who may be interested in trying something new. An official stated that there is a strong black market for the endangered reptile and that stricter border inspections need to be enforced. Supposedly men have been known to walk across the border with crocodiles in boxes carried on their backs. Government crackdowns on the illegal exotic animal trade have not hindered the market nearly as much as it should have. Zheng Yuanying of the Green Eye of China environmental protection group said,
“Although people all know it is illegal to eat these wild creatures, they will still eat them as long as the market sells them. What’s needed is a long-term, stronger campaign to explain to people why they shouldn’t eat crocodile,” he said.
Siamese crocodiles are one of the most endangered crocodiles in the world. In 1992, they were once thought to be almost fully extinct until a few small populations were discovered in Thailand and Vietnam. They can grow up to 13 feet in length but are not a real threat to humans and have never been known to attack.
Crocodiles thrive in wetlands, rivers, and slow moving waters. Their natural habitats are constantly being destroyed to make room for agricultural uses. Fertilizers, pesticides, and hydroelectric dams have also stunted their populations. One major hydrological change made that greatly affected the crocodiles is an addition of a dam on the upper Mekong River and its tributaries. This resulted in the loss of wetlands and altered flooding cycles. There are very few wild populations left of this species on the earth and the urgency to revive them has grown exponentially. Re-establishment of the Siamese crocodile through conservation programs and strategic protection could bring the species back to healthy populations if mitigated efficiently. The good news is that the species are considered to be relatively easy to save compared to other endangered animals because of the high number of eggs (20-50) that females lay each year.
Some of China’s delicacy options are considered taboo to westerners. From minnows in peanuts to fermented tofu, dog meat, and deep-fried scorpions. Many people find these food items to be unpalatable in our culture. But it’s not too hard to find things in our country that foreigners would not touch like deer/cow testicles, fish eggs, or goose livers. However, further endangering wild animals and pushing them to the brink of extinction just to indulge in a rare meat is unfair and should have much more serious consequences.