Finding Rare Crocs in Uganda

February 9, 2012

WCS conservationist Carol Bogezi and others, trained by late WCS croc expert John Thorbjarnarson, continue critical research of the little-known pygmy Nile crocodile.

One of the least-known crocodilians in Africa has reared its armored head in a Ugandan park. A WCS field team working in Kidepo Valley National Park to survey populations of the poorly understood pygmy Nile crocodile has found them living in new sites. They have also encountered young animals, a hopeful sign.

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 the animals were not just a smaller race of the more common Nile crocodile, but a unique population of a distinct crocodile species distributed throughout West Africa.

The Ugandan researchers received their training from the late John Thorbjarnarson, a noted WCS crocodilian expert. Their studies will add to the knowledge of this species in the Kidepo landscape and improve crocodile conservation in Uganda.

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. 

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