The America alligator is one of the best known of all crocodilians and is a wildlife conservation success story. It has enjoyed remarkable recovery since the days of rampant poaching and unbridled hide hunting. Over – exploited since the 1800s, the species was declared in 1960s. Today, its numbers are healthy and it is widely distributed in the south eastern United States.
The alligator population is growing in the south - eastern United States. The number of crocodiles in Australia, Africa, and India also is increasing. Yet most people will never get close to wild crocodilians. Just a few years ago, it looked as if people wouldn't be able to see alligators or crocodiles anywhere but in the zoo. Despite their size, strength, and ability to survive for hundreds of millions of years, crocodilians nearly were wiped out by humans.
By 1971, all species of crocodilians were endangered. Endangered species are in danger of becoming extinct, or no longer existing.
Throughout the world, crocodilians were valued for their hides and meat. Alligator and crocodile hides were used for everything (illegal killing), and smuggling of alligator and crocodile skins was common.
Many thousands of alligators and crocodiles have been killed for their skins. Their skin is made into fine leather. The value of crocodilian skins has caused people to start alligator and crocodile farms.
At the time, many people didn’t understand crocodilians. They were thought of as vicious and dangerous man- eaters. For this reason, many people felt that alligators and crocodiles deserved to be killed. Also, humans began moving in larger numbers to coastal areas, such as Florida. They started building houses and roads that destroyed much of the crocodilian's natural habitat.
A Big Comeback
In the past twenty years, conservationists have convinced people of the importance of saving alligators and crocodiles. Today, sixteen of the twenty three crocodile species have recovered from near - extinction. Their populations continue to grow. There are more than one million alligators living in Florida, not counting the alligators raised on farms.
Today, there are about two hundred alligator farms in the United States. These farms, which are located mostly in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, raise alligators from egg to hatchling. Then they restore young alligators to their natural habitat.
It is hoped that these farms and other conservation programs will safeguard crocodilian species for the next 200 million years.
Alligators and crocodiles should be treated with respect. They are a living bridge to the Age of Dinosaurs.