Baby Philippine crocodiles, raised at Melbourne Zoo, are returning to their home country to be released into the wild (ABC Local: Clare Rawlinson)
For all of the "Modern Ark" PR that zoos and aquariums put out, a sad truth remains - the reintroduction of a species into the wild is still a fairly infrequent event. It's by no means the result of a lack of caring on the part of zoos - it's just a simple reflection of the fact that there isn't much wild left, and most of tiny patches that remain already have animals living there.
With that it mind, it's always very exciting and very inspiring when a reintroduction does occur. The Philippine crocodile, one of the most endangered reptiles on the face of the earth, is now moving closer to a reintroduction with the repatriation of seven juveniles, hatched at Melbourne Zoo, back to their native islands. A small, relatively inoffensive (to humans, anyway) species, the crocodile is found only in the Philippines, where it is threatened by habitat loss and hunting. They have proven more difficult than many other crocodilians to breed in captivity, largely due to the aggression that the sexes show one another.
Successful reintroductions are few so far, but more are being attempted (increasingly with success) every year. All too often, they are used as a last resort after the species has been driven to extinction in the wild, with only the captive population remaining. Thankfully, the Philippine crocodile hasn't gotten to that level of critical yet... and hopefully, with the help of Melbourne and other zoos, it never will.
PS: And what do I find in the news the very next day? A report that Swedish-born Cuban crocodiles are being repatriated to their home country in a reintroduction effort! Read more here.
Baby Cuban crocodiles at Skansen. Photo: TT