Scientists are working to help the Orinoco crocodile, the first species officially listed as being in danger of extinction in Colombia, to recover in the wild.
Researchers from the Universidad Nacional in Villavicencio, a city in the central province of Meta, plan to release two males and two females in the Duda and Guayabero rivers in Sierra de La Macarena National Park at the end of this month.
The four Orinoco crocodiles (crocodylus intermedius) will be tracked using sensors linked to a satellite monitoring system, allowing scientists to follow the animals' movements and craft a national species restoration plan that relies on the 540 crocs in captivity in Colombia.
"The idea is to create a baseline in Colombia that will help in carrying out a controlled release," the director of Universidad Nacional's Roberto Franco research station, Maria Cristina Ardila, told Efe.
Scientists hope to implement the national species restoration plan in 2014, Ardila said.
The Orinoco crocodile, considered the largest predator in Latin America, can grow to be up to seven meters (nearly 23 feet) long and is native to the Orinoco River, which flows through Colombia and Venezuela.
"Between the years 1931 and 1934, it was estimated that in San Fernando de Apure, one of the various hide gathering centers in Venezuela, they were trafficking between 3,000 and 4,000 skins daily," Fundacion Palmarito director Rafael Anelo told Efe.
About 3 million crocodiles lived in the Orinoco region in the 1930s, but today there are only about 1,500 of the reptiles in Venezuela and no more than 200 in Colombia, Antelo said.
The crocodiles are concentrated in Colombia's Arauca province at the confluence of the Ele, Lipa and Cravo rivers, and in Meta province in the Guayabero and Duda rivers, and part of the Losada river. EFE