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MOROCCO: the reintroduction of the Moroccan crocodile, which disappeared 70 years ago

Two West African crocodiles living in the Parc de la Tête d’Or in Lyon, France have just arrived in Morocco. The 49-year-old male and the 32-year-old female have been installed in the Agadir Crocoparc in order to reproduce. Their young will then be reintroduced into the wild, where the species has been extinct since the 1950s.

The announcement made on 5 July 2021 by Grégory Doucet, the mayor of Lyon in France, has now come true. In early September 2022, two West African crocodiles, a 49-year-old male and a 32-year-old female, arrived in Morocco from the Parc de la Tête d’Or in Lyon, France.

The two reptiles, born in a breeding farm in Chad, had arrived at the Zoo de la Tête d’Or in 1975. They will now live at the Crocoparc d’Agadir, the first crocodile zoological park in Morocco, which opened in May 2015 in the west of the kingdom, where an area has been specially designed for them. It is a pool of about thirty metres in length (larger than their pool in Lyon) with different water levels (between 20 cm and 1.60 m deep). The two crocodiles also have burrows for shelter, similar to what they have in the wild.  

The pond in which these crocodiles live is especially suitable for their reproduction. Their arrival in Morocco is part of a programme to reintroduce the species. « My hope is to reintroduce generations from this pair of crocodiles into the gueltas in the south, near the Oued Draâ, where they used to live. A biology student (from the Faculty of Corte in Corsica) has been working on this subject for several months, trying to identify areas where these animals could still be reintroduced, » explains Luc Fougeirol, the director of Crocoparc.

The Moroccan crocodile

The Moroccan crocodile is thought to have disappeared in 1950 from the Guelta de Tanzida in the south of the Cherifian Kingdom, due to desertification and human pressure on natural habitats. « Crocodile skin was in fashion and there was an upsurge in hunting. As long as their presence is no longer of economic interest, wildlife populations unfortunately disappear. The populations living around their habitats really need to find an interest in them, » explains Luc Fougeirol.

The Moroccan crocodile, which is no more than two or two and a half metres long, is genetically identical to its West African counterpart (in Senegal or Ivory Coast). It would therefore have found itself, only a few thousand years ago, isolated in a few gueltas by the emergence and progression of the Sahara. However, it is genetically different from the more massive Nile crocodile, which can weigh more than a ton and lives in a large part of Africa, particularly in the Great Lakes region and in the Nile basin.

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