Jamaicans on croc watch

KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Jamaica National Environment and Planning Agency is reminding the public that with the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season now under way, crocodile sightings will become more frequent.

Coordinator of flora and fauna at NEPA’s Biodiversity Branch, Richard Nelson, noted that “crocodiles live in wetlands and rivers near the sea, because roads and recreation areas are being built close to these wetlands, the animal’s habitat is being encroached upon”. He further explained that “the crocodiles move with the water and hence they turn up in areas where they are normally seen during drier times”.

Mr. Nelson said that although crocodiles might be seen more frequently during the hurricane season, it was illegal to hunt, capture or kill them as they were protected under the Wild Life Protection Act, reports the Jamaica Gleaner.

Mr. Nelson also emphasised during an interview with JIS News that if crocodiles are being hunted then simultaneously the eco-system is being destroyed.

“If crocodiles are being disturbed, and the marshes and mangroves are being degraded to the point of being gone, then the vital functions they perform will also disappear too … fish will disappear, the reefs will die, sedimentation of the seagrass bed will occur and the beaches will be gone”.

The Wild Life Protection Act speaks to the protection of endangered animals such as crocodiles, and that is why it is prohibited for anyone to have any derivative of the animal, such as its skin or products made from it such as bags and handbags, noted Richard Nelson of the National Environment and Planning Agency. Anyone found guilty of such an offence could be fined $100,000 or 12 months in prison.

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