Crocodile at the Uma in Chiapas Crocodile at the Uma in Chiapas. caicrochis

Umas help bring back crocodile numbers

Management system focuses on conservation and socioeconomic development

Conservation efforts have made a difference to the Mexican crocodile population, to the point where their commercial production represents economic benefits for some local communities.

Wildlife Conservation Management Units, or Umas as they are known, have been credited with the recovery of the Morelets crocodile — also known as the Mexican crocodile — after it was in danger of extinction due to loss of habitat and hunting that took place in the 1940s and 1950s.

Today, their numbers are back to healthy levels in Chiapas, Campeche, Colima, San Luis Potosí, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Quintana Roo, Yucatán and Veracruz.

One of the Umas is Cocodrilia, a 12-hectare crocodile farm in Chetumal, Quintana Roo, where conservation, exhibition, reproduction and commercial harvesting of the species go hand in hand. Founder Rolando Coral says its products are generated through a sustainable and legal process.

Products such as leather — which is used to make shoes, bags, wallets, belts and other items, oil and meat are sourced only from the farmed crocodiles while conservation efforts help maintain the wild population.

Cocodrilia produces between 500 and 1,000 skins every year, a number it expects to rise to 3,000 by next year.

Another Uma operates in Tapachula, Chiapas, with two main areas of focus: conservation and reproduction.

Founded 90 years ago, Caimanes y Cocodrilos de Chiapas (Caicrochis) is Mexico’s oldest crocodile farm, and exports skins to Europe, notably France, as well as finished products such as bags, belts and wallets for the domestic market.

There is also a market for the organs, to make pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, and the oil, an ingredient in alternative medications to treat respiratory ailments.

MariPaz López, director of the Uma, says crocodile farming can be a good business.

“Well run farms with enough resources for good infrastructure, trained staff and quality breeding stock are profitable businesses.”

She also says that satisfying the demand for crocodile products reduces illegal hunting.

Introduced in 1997, Umas were designed to link conservation of biodiversity with socioeconomic development in rural areas. They can be run privately, communally or by municipal governments and promote alternative means of producing and harvesting wildlife species while taking steps to ensure their conservation.

They must be registered through Semarnat, the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources, and have an approved management plan.

There are currently 12,621 registered Umas, a number that has been increasing steadily since their inception.

Source: Excélsior (sp)

Reader forum

The forum is available to logged-in subscribers only.