"An accidental introduction of Salmonella or other pathogens into the environment during the release of captive-raised caimans could pose a health threat to wild caiman populations and other susceptible wildlife species, including some birds and mammals," said Dr. Marcela Uhart of WCS's Global Health Program and lead author on the study. "Preventive measures to detect the presence of harmful pathogens in caiman ranching facilities can help reduce potential health risks to humans as well as protect wild animal populations."
Caiman ranching facilities in Argentina currently raise more than 100,000 individual reptiles every year, all of which derive from eggs collected in the wild. Approximately 10 percent of all caimans raised in the facilities are returned to the wild; the rest are used for the commercial production of caiman hides for leather products and meat for local consumption. At present, there is no standardized health surveillance system for Argentina's ranching operations.
"Caimans almost became extinct in the late 1960s as a result of over-hunting for their hides," said Dr. Robert A. Cook, Executive Vice President and General Director of WCS's Living Institutions. "Today, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) supports caiman ranches as a tool for crocodilian conservation. A health monitoring system would help ensure the sustainability of both reintroduction and commercial aspects of caiman ranching as well as the safety of products for human usage."
Dr. Uhart added: "We owe a debt of gratitude to both the owners of El Cachape ranch and Fundacin Vida Silvestre Argentina for initiating the health assessment. The study highlights the potential for conservation-economic partnerships on private lands as well as the way responsible caiman ranching should be done."
|Contact: John Delaney|
Wildlife Conservation Society