PNG CROCODILE INDUSTRY UNDER THREAT

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Post-Courier, April 1) - Papua
New Guinea stands to lose its crocodile skin export trade if it continues to
fail to do annual surveys, Environment and Conservation Minister Zibe Sasa
warned yesterday.

"PNG had already breached CITIES (Convention on the
International Trade in Endangered Species) convention secretariat condition due
to its non-compliance," Sasa said.

He said crocodiles were one of the most important
revenue-raising resources in the swamp and river areas and should be maintained
and managed in a sustainable manner.

The crocodile skin export industry earns an average income of K3
million to K5 million each year for the rural population and the government
through its management and export levy.

Sasa said although crocodiles were protected under the Crocodile
Trade Protection Act, the CITIES Convention had allowed PNG to continue to trade
in its skins.

"We have a reputable crocodile resource management system
in place. The skins from the farmed animals compliment the wild-caught crocodile
skins and help the crocodile skins export to continue, he said.

"If we (PNG) do not have the numbers in the wild then it is
most likely that we terminate the crocodile industry in PNG."

Sasa’s warning follows the completion of an annual aerial
survey of crocodiles recently.

Annual surveying of crocodiles is an international obligation
under the convention.

Papua New Guinea is the only one of the CITIES contracting
parties in the world given a dispensation to trade in crocodile skins from the
wild.

The survey of crocodile nesting was conducted in the
Upper-Middle region of Ambunti district of East Sepik Province with encouraging
results.

Sasa said the study indicated a significant increase in the
nesting activity of the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) as compared to
the last survey conducted in 1998.

He expressed concern over the failure by successive governments
since 1998 in providing the required funds to carry out the annual crocodile
survey.

He said during the last four years it was not possible to know
whether the crocodile population in Ambunti had increased, decreased or had
remained stable.

The study this year was made possible following the release of
K200,000 by Finance and Treasury Department. He thanked Treasurer Bart Philemon
and his staff for recognizing the importance of crocodile surveying and the
subsequent release of the needed funds.

He also appealed to the people in all crocodile breeding and
hunting regions to practice sustainable methods to keep the crocodile
population.

April 2, 2003

Pacific Islands News Association: http://www.ifex.org/members/pina/ 

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