WCS Conservationists, trained by late WCS croc expert John Thorbjarnarson, continue critical research of little-known pygmy Nile crocodile

NEW YORK (February 9, 2012) – A WCS field team working in a Ugandan national park is finding new areas containing one of the least-known crocodilians in Africa – the pygmy Nile crocodile.

The team of Ugandan researchers, trained by the late John Thorbjarnarson, a noted WCS crocodilian expert, is conducting population surveys of these poorly understood crocodiles in Uganda’s Kidepo Valley National Park. The research will add to the knowledge of this species in the Kidepo landscape and will improve crocodile conservation in Uganda.

The WCS research team reports that, along with finding new sites, they have found evidence of young crocodiles in new areas. Pygmy Nile crocodiles were only reconfirmed as still present in Uganda in 2009 and their conservation status remains unknown. In 2011, scientists led by Matthew H. Shirley of the University of Florida discovered that these pygmy Nile crocodiles are actually a unique population of a distinct crocodile species distributed throughout West Africa - not just a smaller race of the more common Nile crocodile as previously believed.

Thorbjarnarson, together with Shirley, trained Ugandan conservationists prior to his death on February 14, 2010 from malaria at age 52. The renowned crocodile expert worked in 30 countries over his career to conserve and protect crocodilians.

“It is an honor to continue John’s work in Uganda to protect the pygmy Nile crocodile,” said Carol Bogezi, a WCS Field Coordinator in Uganda. “John trained us on how to survey and handle crocodiles and we apply what he taught us every day.”

With the generous support of John Thorbjarnarson's family, WCS has established a memorial fund in John's honor to promote the conservation of the world's endangered crocodilians. For more info, go to: http://www.wcs.org/johnt

Stephen Sautner: 1-718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org
John Delaney: 1-718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the Flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes toward nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.