Caimans, Crocs and Communities: Rescuing an Endangered Wetland
In Summer 2003, Asociación Ambiental VIDA, a Costa Rican conservation NGO commissioned the Conservation Clinic to assist it with policy issues associated with Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge, a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. (Ramsar, Iran, 1971). Established as a Ramsar site on January 27, 1991, Caño Negro is a shallow freshwater lagoon near the Nicaraguan border, surrounded by seasonally inundated marshes and woods. The area is threatened by sedimentation, fire, poaching and agricultural pressures.
VIDA sought the Clinic’s assistance in the development of a proposal to list Caño Negro on the Montreux Record under the Ramsar Convention Record (the official list of wetlands that are undergoing changes in ecological condition). If Caño Negro is listed on the Montreux Record, it becomes eligible for increased funding and technical assistance, something the refuge badly needs.
A second objective of the Conservation Clinic was to research whether it would be possible for the community of Caño Negro to harvest Caiman crocodylus, a reptilian species used for its meat and hide. Caimans are listed as a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) which Costa Rica is party to, therefore their trade is strictly regulated. We found that because caimans are an Appendix II species in Costa Rica, and given the apparent abundant population in Caño Negro, this may be a viable project for the community. For this project to take place, more research needs to be conducted into the biological and socio-economic factors in order to obtain the appropriate permits.