Orinoco Crocodile project updates

- In August, 2012 -

Publication of the Orinoco Crocodile Monograph

After having finalised the Orinoco Crocodile Monograph and translated it in English, Chelonia Association started its distribution in Colombia, in the United States and in Spain. This book entitled “Natural History and Conservation of the Orinoco Crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius) in Colombia” is an international reference for the specie knowledge and a precious tool to use as a basis for settling suitable conservation measures: a great advance for the Orinoco Crocodile conservation. The book is currently being distributed among the main public and private institutions related to the conservation of crocodilians.

Front cover page of the Orinoco Crocodile Monograph (© Chelonia)

- In June, 2012 -

Spotting of the rare Orinoco crocodile

The association Chelonia organised an expedition on the Arauca department searching for the rare Orinoco crocodile. This area is known for owning the biggest population of Columbia. Over the 185 km of river surveyed, Chelonia could observe about 30 Orinoco crocodiles: 14 adults, 15 sub-adults and 5 nests. Recent events, like the killing of adult crocodiles or the rising of the water level, had made Chelonia expect fewer observations. However, the conservation status of the specie is still very worrying and that’s why Chelonia plans to monitor the Arauca population and to encourage the creation of a protected area.

Orinoco crocodile hatchlings observed during the expedition in Arauca (© Chelonia)

- In April 2012 -

An expedition confirms Orinoco crocodile rarefaction

Chelonia recently carried through a one-week-long field expedition in Orocué, Casanare region, North-East of Colombia. More than 200 kilometres of rivers have been inventoried by day and night, looking for Orinoco crocodile tracks. Whereas local people announced the presence of 4 individuals, none was seen during the expedition.

Casanare river (Source : Chelonia)


- In March, 2012 -

The Orinoco crocodile conservation :  an issue more and more famous

The Chelonia Foundation and its counterparts have published a scientific article in the CSG (Crocodile Specialist Group of the International Union for Nature Conservation) newsletter. This article is based on the data compiled in the 2010/2011 expeditions, which update the conservation status of the Orinoco crocodile populations in the wild. It also presents the behavior of a wild male, described for the first time in Colombia!


- In December, 2011 –

Continuation of Orinoco crocodile conservation awareness campaign in Colombia

The Orinoco crocodile awareness campaign took off again in early September with a series of presentations aimed at students in the main localities of Casanare and Vichada. During the presentation, the students were made aware of the critical conservation situation of the Orinoco crocodile, and were given information on the species´ biology and habitat. Posters and brochures on the project were also given out at the different educational institutions in order to reinforce the organization’s communications campaign.


- In November, 2011 –

Presentation of Orinoco crocodile program results at the IV Binational Workshop of the Orinoco Basin

The Chelonia Foundation presented the results of the Orinoco Crocodile Conservation Project at the IV Binational Workshop for the conservation and sustainable use of the biodiversity in the Orinoco basin, held at the Alexander von Humbolt Research Institute from the 12th to the 15th of October in the village of Villa de Leyva (Colombia). Researchers, experts, consultants and environmental authorities from both Colombia and Venezuela attended this workshop to present and define the advances, perspectives and proposals on the conservation of the biodiversity in the Orinoco region. The conservation of the Orinoco crocodile was one of the main subjects on the agenda. Among the main actions proposed were the creation of a binational protected area, the creation and implementation of more captive breeding facilities in Colombia to reinforce the endangered wild populations, and the standardization of the survey and breeding protocols.


- In October, 2011 –

Continuation of Orinoco crocodile conservation awareness campaign in Colombia

Thirty-six lectures on Orinoco crocodile conservation were presented at ten different localities within the species´ historical distribution area, within the departments of Casanare and Vichada. These presentations were carried out between the 6th and 23rd of September, in collaboration with the Regional Autonomous Corporation of the Orinoco region (Corporinoquia). Overall 1.356 people participated and amazingly 99% of them were unaware of the fact that the Orinoco crocodile is an endangered species, which strongly demonstrates the importance of this endeavor. Brochures and posters were given out to all of the visited educational institutions.

Contribution to the Orinoco crocodile reintroduction protocol

The Chelonia Foundation and its counterparts are participating in the elaboration of a reintroduction protocol, which forms part of the Orinoco crocodile Conservation National Program. Researchers from the National University of Colombia have elaborated the protocol. This document is currently being revised by all of the different institutions that collaborate in the program. The reintroduction protocol has to follow the guidelines established by the IUCN´s Reintroduction Specialist Group, which are essential to ensure the success of the Orinoco crocodile reintroduction process in Colombia.


- In September, 2011 -

New expeditions 2011-2012 in Arauca, Colombia

The Chelonia Foundation´s research team is in the midst of carefully planning its future field activities in the department of Arauca in North-east Colombia, where the crocodile population of Arauca is probably the most numerous among the four groups identified on Colombian territory during the investigations carried out from 1994 to 1998. In these surveys, 53 specimens and 11 reproductive events were recorded. Surveys carried out in 2000 and 2001 confirmed these estimates.

The preparations are being carried out in collaboration with Corporinoquia (Corporación Autónoma Regional de la Orinoquia).


- In August, 2011 -

Meeting of the partners in the Orinoco crocodile conservation national program

On June 24th a meeting between the different institutions participating in the Orinoco Crocodile Conservation Program was held at the headquarters of the Ecosystems Department of the Environment, Housing and Territorial Development Ministry in Bogota, Colombia. Among the attendees were representatives from the Ministry, the Chelonia Foundation, as well as other organizations. One of the conclusions from the meeting was that there was presently the urgent need for a captive-reared Orinoco crocodile release protocol document to be generated and agreed upon by the different participating institutions within the following two months.

Orinoco crocodile: Reproduction recorded in the Vichada River

A nest of  the Orinoco crocodile  was discovered in the first months of 2011 on the beach of “Pozo Caimán”, the area where the two Orinoco crocodile specimens had been observed in December 2010 and February 2011 by Chelonia´s researchers. This nest, the only observed in the river Vichada in recent years, contained forty-one eggs.

The above observation, together with the information collected from local inhabitants who confirmed not having observed any neonates, yearlings or juveniles of the species in the last few years, highlights the difficult situation which is currently experienced by this relict population of Orinoco crocodiles and which seems to be diminishing considerably its possibilities of recovery.

Meanwhile Chelonia is engaged in awareness campaigns aimed at informing the local communities (children and adults) about the importance of protecting the Orinoco crocodile.


Partnership agreement between the Chelonia Foundation and the Alexander von Humbolt Institute

A partnership agreement was signed between the Chelonia Foundation and the Alexander von Humboldt Institute, which works towards the research and protection of Colombian biodiversity. The Alexander von Humboldt Institute was represented by its director, Brigitte L. G. Baptiste and the Chelonia Foundation by its Colombia coordinator, Antonio Castro.

Among the planned activities is the collaboration between the two entities to publish a monograph on the crocodilian and turtle species in Colombia and the strengthening of the National Biodiversity System Data, which is currently managed by the Institute.


- In July, 2011-

CHELONIA FOUNDATION AWARENESS CAMPAIGN CONTINUES

Chelonia Foundation Coordinator for Colombia held a meeting with the Environmental Education Department of the Regional and Autonomous Corporation for the Orinoquia (Corporinoquia) in the city of Yopal on 23rd May to program joint presentations addressed to 12-17 year old students of several schools of the localities of Yopal, Orocué, Bocas del Pauto, Trinidad (Casanare Department) and Santa Rosalía, La Primavera and Puerto Carreño (Vichada Department). Similar initials are going to be take place in the Arauca department. The presentations are planned for the months of July and August, just after the June school holidays.

ORINOCO AND BOJONAWI RESERVE EXPEDITION

The Chelonia Foundation staff continued its research in the Orinoco River 40km upstream of Puerto Carreño in the Casanare and Vichada Departments.The Bojonawi Reserve, which is located at the shore of the Orinoco River and managed by the non-profit Colombian NGO “Omacha Foundation”, was also visited. The reserve has a lagoon that was prospected in the day and traveled at night by boat. Unfortunately only spectacled caimans (Caiman crocodilus) were sighted. The information gathered from fishermen and boat pilots seems to indicate that no Orinoco crocodiles have been observed in the last 10 years, in the stretch of the Orinoco between Puerto Carreño and Casuarito. Some of the research team´s information sources have however confirmed the presence of Orinoco crocodile specimens 124km upstream from Puerto Carreño.

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- In June, 2011-

PUBLIC AWARENESS CAMPAIGN IN COLOMBIA: TRAINING SESSION IN THE ORINOCO REGION

As part of the campaign to increase public awareness on the conservation status of the Orinoco crocodile, Dr. Manuel Merchán, the President of the Chelonia Foundation, gave a lecture at the Corporinoquia headquarters in the city of Yopal (the capital of Casanare department in Colombia). A considerable number of technical and executive staff from Corporinoquia, the environmental authority of the Orinoco region in Colombia attended this conference, dedicated to the conservation status of the species as well as to the latest project results.


- In June, 2011-

NEW SURVEY ON AN AREA OF A RELICT POPULATION OF THE ORINOCO CROCODILE IN THE META RIVER

In March 2011, the Chelonia Foundation team carried out a new survey in the Meta River (the part lying on the borders of the Casanare and Vichada departments, between La Primavera and La Constancia). This area had been found in the 1990s to contain one of the four populations then remaining of Orinoco crocodiles with 15 specimens having been located in 166 km of river. After having carried out observations along 235 km of river, the Chelonia research team has unfortunately observed neither specimen nor trail of the species. Despite some inhabitants having affirmed presence of individuals, the researchers’ observations confirm the deterioration in the conservation status of the species over the last fifteen years.


- In May, 2011-

New Orinoco crocodile individual observations at the Vichada River

The Vichada River was explored in the first ten days of February for a second time in order to observe and record new Orinoco crocodile sightings in the stretch of river between Cumaribo and Santa Rita.
Water levels reached their minimum during this month, and consequently a considerable number of beaches were uncovered. One new specimen was recorded at Pozo Caimán, the same area where another individual had been located in the December 2010 expedition.
The specimen was estimated to measure between 230 and 250 cm in length, which confirmed that it was different from the one that had been found in December. No other trails or specimens were located for the rest of the expedition.


- In February, 2011-

First specimens of the wild Orinoco crocodile finally located in Colombia!

During the month of December 2010, Chelonia staff went to the village of Cumaribo located in the central part of the Vichada region, searching for trails and footprints indicative of the presence of Orinoco crocodile specimens. More than 330 km of river were traveled. Despite the elevated water levels, a crocodile specimen was located 200km from Cumaribo, just 80  meters away from the observers´ boat. The specimen measured between 3.00 and 3.50 meters in length! Another specimen was located 10km farther downstream from the place of this first sighting.

This is a great discovery for the Chelonia research team, which has already spent a considerable number of months searching for Orinococrocodile individuals.Another visit is planned  to the area when water levels reach their minimum at the end of January to confirm the presence of a new viable Orinoco crocodile population.


- In December, 2010-

New Orinoco crocodile surveys in the region of Casanare, Colombia

The Chelonia Foundation team, carried out at the beginning of November flights over several little streams and affluents of the Meta River in search of the rare Orinoco crocodile. These flights  were carried out on trikes, ultralight hang-gliders, and on an Air Cam plane, thus allowing for low and slow surveillance. A hundred kilometers of the Meta River were inspected including the “caños” such as the Caños Duda, Guanapalo and Pauto. The Cravo Sur River, another affluent of the Meta River, was also inspected. Unfortunately, no evidence confirming the presence of the species has been detected, which does not  necessarily mean that the species has disappeared, but reinforces the importance of this project in favor of the Orinoco crocodile.

New teaching material dealing with the conservation of the Orinoco crocodile in Colombia.

Chelonia has published and distributed brochures on the conservation of the Orinoco crocodile in Colombia. These brochures have been designed to make the general public aware of the species´ critical conservation status and of the pressing need to stimulate and strengthen conservation efforts. The brochure will be distributed mainly amongst Colombian educational, environmental and conservation organizations, as well as among the general public in Los Llanos and in other areas, which are directly concerned by the conservation of the Orinoco crocodile.


- In November, 2010-

Research on the las Orinoco crocodiles at “La Aurora”, Colombia

Chelonia began working at “Finca La Aurora”. La Aurora is a ”Social Protected Area” (Reserva de la Sociedad Civil in Spanish) located at the north edge of the Casanare region, in the municipalities of “Paz de Ariporo” and “Hato Corozal”. During the first expedition to Aurora, a number of emblematic species of the Orinoco lowlands were identified, such as the capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris), deer (Odocoileus virginianus), caiman (Caiman crocodilus), anaconda (Eunectes murinus) and more than 30 bird species. Also, local people confirmed the presence of jaguar (Panthera onca) and puma (Puma concolor) and Orinoco crocodile populations. In “La Aurora” the Chelonia researchers travelled by boat along the “Chire Nuevo” and “El Indio” rivers, where the presence of Orinoco crocodiles had been confirmed during the last dry season (December to February, 2010).


- In October, 2010-

Leaflets and posters to protect the Orinoco crocodile

Chelonia finished the design of the final version of the leaflet and poster for the awareness program, which was approved by the different institutions participating in the execution and funding  of the project; The Regional Autonomous Corporation of the Orinoquia (Corporinoquia), the Fonds de Dotation pour la Biodiversité-Save Your Logo, the Fundación Biodiversidad, the Natural Protected Areas Corporation, and the Conservation and Forestry Development Foundation. These visual materials, aim to inform the general public about the critical situation of the Orinoco crocodile in Colombia and the urgent need for its conservation. The leaflet contains photographs and a short text to show basic information about the natural history and conservation status    of the species.