This dwarf crocodile was rescued from the back of a motorbike by a team of eco-guards at a checkpoint outside Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo. It had been bound and stuffed in an empty flour sack.
Dwarf crocodiles are partially protected under Congolese law, meaning special permits are required to hunt them, and hunting is restricted to certain areas and times.
The fisherman who caught this crocodile didn't have a permit, so the crocodile was rescued.
The guards looked after it for several days until the next patrol was headed north. Then they carried the little crocodile upstream, deeper into the dense forest, and released it well beyond the fishing zone.
In general, crocodile meat is highly sought-after in this part of the world. As road networks expand in the north of the country, logging towns are springing up further into the forest. Their residents are increasingly reliant on bushmeat as a source of food.
Currently, two of the three local species of crocodile, the Nile crocodile and the slender snouted crocodile, are completely protected in the Congo. Little is known about the impact hunting is having on the other—the dwarf crocodile. Given its prevalence on the bushmeat market, its numbers may be falling.
To help, several checkpoints have been set up on logging roads surrounding the national park to deal with the expanding threats to wildlife.
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