The American crocodile: A prehistoric beast on the brink of extinction

July 31, 2014, 1 p.m.
american crocodile

Photo: Bill Bouton/MNN Flickr Group

An American crocodile photographed in Florida

One of the largest of the crocodile species in the world, the American crocodile can be found in coastal areas in southern North America, Central America, and northern South America. (This one is in Everglades National Park in Florida.) They love the brackish water of estuaries and mangrove swamps, and can even be found at sea as it swims from island to island. An adult can grow to lengths of over 15 feet, and weigh as much as a ton. However, its large size also made it a target for hunting. This combined with pollution, habitat loss, and adults removed from the wild for crocodile farming all sent its numbers plummeting. While it is currently considered an endangered species throughout most of its range, it was downgraded from endangered to threatened in the United States in 2007 thanks to a small but important rise in population after protections were put in place. Unfortunately, not every country where the species is found has the ability or desire to fully protect the species from poaching.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.