Did you know that just 50 years ago the American alligator was nearing extinction?
Over the last 50 years their population has grown from less than 100,000 to now over 2 million. There are also nearly 1 million gators on farms in Louisiana.
How did this happen?
A change from unregulated harvesting of the Louisiana alligator to research, management, and strict licensing laws from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). What they've found is 90% of alligator eggs don't survive in the wild. An egg collection program was created between the LDWF and local land owners who became farmers, ensuring the collected eggs were incubated properly and survival rates are monitored closely.
Farms are regularly inspected by the LDWF, the state health department and other government bodies to ensure the alligators are treated humanely. These inspections are necessary for the farms to receive license renewals for operation. These farms are also required by law to release 10% of the alligators they raise back into the wild. This also is monitored closely by the LDWF.
According to the CITES website linked below "CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival."
This is done through regulated traceability of many endangered and protected species. American alligator is one of almost 6,000 species of animals on their protected list. The LDWF has a strict policy on egg collection and verification that farmers must use. CITES then issues alligator tags only for the number of alligators housed on each farm. These tags are numerically serialized and only allotted to those specific farms. They are also tamper resistant, self locking and not easily removed. This ensures traceability from the manufacturer, back to the farm an alligator was raised in, all the way to the egg collection itself.
Each alligator skin, upon being scheduled to leave Louisiana is checked for legality over 7 times by the LDWF during the shipping process. Upon verification, each farmer pays a severance tax per skin to the LDWF that goes into a special alligator resource fund, used by the LDWF for education, covering their yearly expenses, and other conservation efforts. And this is only the first step in checking for legality through the life of a skin. From there, CITES checks the legality of before they make it to a manufacturer.
At this point, you'd probably agree this is quite a highly regulated process. And the numbers speak for themselves on not only the sustainability, but species growth that the market value of American alligator has produced.
American alligator eggs have a 90% mortality rate in the wild
The LDWF has implemented a gold standard of sustainability with the American gator
Programs similar to the LDWF have been implemented worldwide for other species, proving it's highly regarded as a quality standard for species sustainability
The CITES international treaty adds further layers of monitoring legality and traceability
The reopening and regulation of commercial trade by the LDWF saved the American alligator species from potential extinction