Creature of the Week #9: Philippine Crocodile

Undoubtedly, crocodiles are one of the planet’s most tenacious predators: The first set of hungry eyes, peeping from the river’s surface at the same time as the dinosaurs dominion, and then surviving virtually unchanged in for the millions of years that have since passed. So successful are they at the role they play in their environment, that evolution has only made marginal changes to their morphology and behaviour in this time, whilst they’re prey on the land carries on changing completely hundreds of times.

And yet, this mastery of evolution that has survived the most dramatic of ecological catastrophe, is meeting it’s match with one species alone. Guess which one? Subsequently, the Philippine Crocodile Crocodylus mindorensis is one of 7 out of 14 crocodile species listed as threatened by the IUCN. More specifically, it is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’, numbering only 250 in the wild and on the very verge of extinction.

But while it is easy to get conservation support for tigers and mountain gorillas, few people are willing to help an animal which essentially represents humanity’s fear of nature’s ‘dark’ side. And, along with habitat loss from drainage for agriculture, this is one of the key reasons why it’s in its current state. Though it is a small species and more wary of humans than some of its larger relatives, locals still kill it indiscriminately out of paranoia.

When the country’s government doesn’t even support conservation measures for the animal, it seems as if the captive population may be the last remaining vestige of this remarkable reptile in the near future. But with biodiversity slowly growing on the agendas of many of the world’s leaders, as the effects of it’s loss on our own livelihood become more apparent, let us hope that millions of years of perfected evolution isn’t wasted for the Philippine Crocodile in the time to come. Or indeed, all of its remarkable kindred.

(Photo taken at London Zoo)

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