[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 100 (Wednesday, May 23, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 30819-30854]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-12263]



[[Page 30819]]

Vol. 77

Wednesday,

No. 100

May 23, 2012

Part IV





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service





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50 CFR Part 17





Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Rule To Remove the 
Morelet's Crocodile From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 77 , No. 100 / Wednesday, May 23, 2012 / 
Rules and Regulations

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R9-ES-2010-0030; 92210-1113-0000-C6]
RIN 1018-AV22


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Rule To 
Remove the Morelet's Crocodile From the Federal List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: Under the authority of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act), we, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are 
removing the Morelet's crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii) throughout its 
range from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife due 
to recovery. This action is based on a thorough review of the best 
available scientific and commercial data, which indicate that the 
species' status has improved to the point that the Morelet's crocodile 
is not likely to become threatened within the foreseeable future 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range. After the 
effective date of this final rule, the Morelet's crocodile will remain 
protected under the provisions of the Convention on International Trade 
in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

DATES: This rule becomes effective June 22, 2012.

ADDRESSES: This final rule is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov and comments and materials received, as well as 
supporting documentation used in the preparation of this rule, will be 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours at: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 
400, Arlington, VA 22203.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Janine Van Norman, Chief, Branch of 
Foreign Species, Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, VA 22203; 
telephone 703-358-2171; facsimile 703-358-1735. If you use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Executive Summary

(1) Purpose of the Regulatory Action

    We are delisting the Morelet's crocodile throughout its range due 
to recovery under the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) 
Conservation actions by the three range countries of Mexico, Belize, 
and Guatemala have eliminated or significantly reduced the threats to 
the species to point that it is no longer endangered or threatened. 
Wild populations have increased substantially since restrictions on 
commercial harvest and trade were instituted in the 1970s. Species 
experts now widely characterize Morelet's crocodile populations as 
healthy.

(2) Major Provision of the Regulatory Action

    This action is authorized by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 
(Act), as amended.
    We are amending Sec.  17.11(h), subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 
of the Code of Federal Regulations by removing the entry for 
``Crocodile, Morelet's'' from the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife.

(3) Costs and Benefits

    This is a delisting action, and the Office of Management and Budget 
(OMB) has designated it as not significant. Therefore, we have not 
analyzed the costs or benefits of this rulemaking action.

Previous Federal Actions

    The Morelet's crocodile was listed as endangered throughout its 
entire range under the predecessor of the Act via a rule published in 
the Federal Register on June 2, 1970 (35 FR 8491). Import into, export 
from, or re-export from the United States, as well as other 
prohibitions, including movement in the course of a commercial activity 
and sale in interstate or foreign commerce, of endangered species and 
their parts and products, are prohibited under the Act unless otherwise 
authorized. Authorizations for endangered species can only be made for 
scientific purposes or to enhance the propagation or survival of the 
species. On July 1, 1975, the Morelet's crocodile was listed in 
Appendix I of CITES. These protections were put in place because the 
species had suffered substantial population declines throughout its 
range due to habitat destruction and overexploitation through the 
commercial crocodilian skin trade. CITES Appendix I includes species 
that are ``threatened with extinction which are or may be affected by 
trade.''
    On May 26, 2005, the Service received a petition from the 
Government of Mexico's Comisi[oacute]n Nacional para el Conocimiento y 
Uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO) to remove the Morelet's crocodile 
from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife at 50 CFR 17.11.
    Based on the information provided, the Service's 90-day finding on 
the petition, which was published in the Federal Register on June 28, 
2006 (71 FR 36743), stated that the petition provided substantial 
information to indicate that the requested action may be warranted. In 
that finding, we announced that we had initiated a status review of the 
species as required under section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act, and that we 
were seeking comments on the petition, as well as information on the 
status of the species, particularly in Belize and Guatemala. The 
Service also solicited comments or additional information from 
counterparts in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.
    On April 27, 2011, the Service published in the Federal Register a 
rule proposing to delist the Morelet's crocodile from the Federal List 
of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (76 FR 23650). With publication 
of the proposed rule, we implemented the Service's peer review process 
and opened a 60-day comment period to solicit scientific and commercial 
information on the species from all interested parties. For more 
detailed information on previous Federal actions, please refer to the 
April 2011 proposed rule.
    We based this action on a review of the best scientific and 
commercial information available, including all information received 
during the public comment period. In the April 27, 2011, proposed rule, 
we requested that all interested parties submit information that might 
contribute to development of a final rule. We also contacted 
appropriate scientific experts and organizations and invited them to 
comment on the proposed delisting. We received comments from five 
individuals; two of those comments were from peer reviewers.

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    We reviewed all comments we received from the public and peer 
reviewers for substantive issues and new information regarding the 
proposed delisting of this species, and we address those comments 
below. Overall, the commenters and peer reviewers supported the 
proposed delisting. Belize and Guatemala did not submit comments.

[[Page 30821]]

Peer Review

    In accordance with our policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 
34270), we solicited expert opinions from six individuals with 
scientific expertise that included familiarity with the species, the 
geographic region in which the species occurs, and conservation biology 
principles. We received responses from two of the peer reviewers from 
whom we requested comments. They generally agreed that the description 
of the biology and habitat for the species was accurate and based on 
all relevant literature. Some new information was provided, as well as 
technical clarifications, as described below. Technical corrections 
suggested by the peer reviewers have been incorporated into this final 
rule. In some cases, it has been indicated in the citations by 
``personal communication'' (pers. comm.), which could indicate either 
an email or telephone conversation; in other cases, the research 
citation is provided. Public Comments
    The Service only received substantive comments from peer reviewers. 
There were no substantive comments from the public.

Peer Reviewer Comments

    (1) Comment: One peer reviewer disagreed with our statement that 
``Unlike most other species of crocodilians, the Morelet's crocodile 
lacks bony plates beneath the skin (osteoderms) * * *'' The reviewer 
stated that 14 of 23 extant crocodilian species share that same 
characteristic. He suggested we change the language to ``Like many 
crocodilians * * *''
    Our Response: The Service agrees, and we have revised the statement 
to incorporate this change.
    (2) Comment: One peer reviewer suggested that caution be made when 
discussing threats; we should not assume that mortality factors 
affecting some crocodiles constitute a threat that affects population 
recruitment or population growth trajectory. He noted that crocodilians 
have a robust life-history strategy, including repeated production of 
offspring at intervals throughout their life cycle; long reproductive 
lives; high fecundity; and low egg and hatchling survival, likely 
enhanced by crocodilian parental care demonstrated for most species, 
including Crocodylus moreletii. The combined result is that 
crocodilians can sustain relatively high levels of mortality at all 
life stages without reducing recruitment or population growth. Thus the 
persistence of some anthropogenic threats at low levels such as 
killing, subsistence hunting, and fishing net entanglement are unlikely 
to constitute significant impacts to population persistence or even to 
recovery.
    Our Response: We agree, and have included revised language in this 
rule.
    (3) Comment: One peer reviewer stated that although the finding 
refers to a ``rule,'' there were very few rules governing this species, 
unlike other crocodilian species such as the saltwater crocodile, some 
caimans, and Nile crocodile, in which there are requirements governing 
trade, use, marking, etc.
    Our Response: Those particular crocodilians were reclassified to 
``Threatened'' status under the Act with a special rule under section 
4(d) of the Act, governing crocodilians (see 50 CFR 17.42(c)). The 
Service notes that the Morelet's crocodile is being delisted, and will 
no longer fall under the provisions of the Act, and therefore will have 
no further requirements under the Act. However, this species will be 
subject to the requirements of 50 CFR part 23 regulations, concerning 
the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild 
Fauna and Flora, (CITES), and 50 CFR part 13 (General Permit 
Procedures) and 50 CFR part 14 (Importation, Exportation, and 
Transportation of Wildlife). We have included this statement in this 
final rule.
    (4) Comment: One reviewer stated that they were not aware of any 
information on trade, biology, or populations in Guatemala. However, 
they spoke to Dr. Frank Mazzotti regarding his work referenced in the 
proposed rule (76 FR 23682) pertaining to a national crocodile 
management program with the Belize Forestry Department and Lamanai 
Field Research Center. The reviewer reports with Dr. Mazzotti's consent 
that this effort has resulted in little progress being made. As of June 
20, 2011, Dr. Mazzotti was in Belize trying to reactivate the program.
    Our Response: We have updated the section pertaining to Dr. 
Mazzotti's efforts in trying to reactivate this effort.
    (5) Comment: One peer reviewer asserted our statement pertaining to 
the Morelet's crocodile's size attained at sexual maturity was 
incorrect: ``Morelet's crocodiles attain sexual maturity at about 4.9 
ft. (1.5 m) in length, at approximately 7-8 years of age.'' The 
reviewer asserted that this only pertains to females (see Platt et al. 
2008). Males attain sexual maturity at larger sizes than females, 
although this size may vary by habitat, nutrition, etc.
    Our Response: We revised that section to reflect this correction.
    (6) Comment: One peer reviewer asserted our statement pertaining to 
``Nests, usually constructed of leaf mounds * * *'' was incomplete. 
They stated that Morelet's crocodile nests are constructed of various 
types and components of vegetation such as grasses and sedges, leaves 
and soil, as well as other materials, such as woody debris.
    Our Response: We revised that section to include the other nesting 
materials highlighted by the peer reviewer.
    (7) Comment: One peer reviewer noted that the proposed rule had a 
number of repetitious sections where the same information was presented 
almost word for word (e.g. the sections describing Mexico's 2010 CITES 
proposal.)
    Our Response: We agree, and have limited the CITES 2010 discussion 
to Factor D., Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms, Mexico's 
Proposal To Transfer the Morelet's Crocodile to CITES Appendix II. We 
refer back to this discussion in Factor D as needed.
    (8) One of the peer reviewers expressed concern about effective 
enforcement, after delisting. He stated that, due to financial 
constraints, limited personnel, and other factors, ``effective 
enforcement of wildlife laws and regulations can be difficult to 
impossible to achieve in the range countries.
    Our Response: The principle threat to Morelet's crocodiles was 
trade for the crocodilian skin trade. Illegal harvest or killing of 
individuals perceived as threats to humans or livestock cannot be 
completely precluded, but enforcement of controls on domestic and 
international trade severely limit any commercial incentives. In this 
rule we state that even with this delisting of the species under the 
Endangered Species Act, ``the status of the species under CITES, which 
is an international trade agreement (see Factor D., Inadequacy of 
Existing Regulatory Mechanisms, Mexico's Proposal To Transfer the 
Morelet's Crocodile to CITES Appendix II), will continue to preclude 
the trade of wild specimens for commercial purposes and therefore 
should not create additional pressure on wild populations in any of the 
range states, as long as enforcement remains effective.'' The Service 
feels that enforcement under CITES is effective at curtailing illegal 
trade of Morelet's crocodile, and there is no indication that it will 
change in the immediate future.

[[Page 30822]]

Summary of Changes From Proposed Rule

    We fully considered the comments we received from the public on the 
proposed rule when developing this final delisting of the Morelet's 
crocodile. This final rule incorporates changes to our proposed 
delisting based on the comments that we received (discussed above) and 
newly available scientific and commercial information. Reviewers 
generally commented that the proposed rule was very thorough and 
comprehensive. We made some technical corrections based on new, 
although limited, information presented by the peer reviewers. None of 
the information, however, changed our determination that delisting this 
species is warranted.

Species Information

    Three species of crocodilians occur in Mexico and Central America. 
The Morelet's crocodile and the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) 
co-occur in Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala (Schmidt 1924, pp. 79 and 85; 
Stuart 1948, p. 45). While their ranges overlap, the American crocodile 
has a much larger range than the Morelet's crocodile, and is found in 
the United States in the State of Florida, as well as in the Caribbean, 
on Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Central America and in northern South 
America, in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and northern Peru. A third 
species, the common or spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus) occurs in 
Mexico and Guatemala, but is absent from Belize. The distribution of 
the common caiman also extends into northern South America (Ross 1998, 
pp. 14-17; Thorbjarnarson 1992, pp. 82-85). The Morelet's crocodile was 
named after a French naturalist, P.M.A. Morelet (1809-1892), who 
discovered this species in Mexico, in 1850 (Britton 2008, p. 1). The 
type locality of the species was later restricted to ``Guatemala, El 
Peten, Laguna de Peten'' when the species was scientifically described. 
In Mexico, the Morelet's crocodile is known as ``lagarto'' or ``swamp 
crocodile'' (Rodriguez-Quivedo et al. 2008).
    The Morelet's crocodile is a ``relatively small species'' that 
usually attains a maximum length of approximately 9.8-11.5 ft. (3-3.5 m 
(S[aacute]nchez 2005, p. 4); Britton 2008, p. 1)), with most wild 
adults ranging in length 6.6-8.2 ft. (2-2.5 m). Hurley (2005, p. 2), 
however, reported specimens attaining 15.4 ft. (4.7 m). Platt and 
Rainwater (2005, p. 25) stated that size estimates where shorter 
lengths were documented were probably based on populations that had 
been heavily impacted by hunting, and which now contained few large 
adults. The Morelet's crocodile is distinguished from other crocodiles, 
particularly the partially sympatric (having the same or overlapping 
distribution) and somewhat larger American crocodile, by the number of 
dorsal scales in each transverse row on its back, the number and 
arrangement of nuchal scales (located at the nape of the neck), and 
irregular scales on the ventrolateral (lower side) surface of the tail 
(Meerman 1994, p. 110; Navarro Serment 2004, pp. 55-56; Platt and 
Rainwater 2005, p. 27; Hern[aacute]ndez Hurtado et al. 2006, p. 376; 
Platt et al. 2008b, p. 294). The Morelet's crocodile has six nuchal 
scales of similar size compared to other crocodile species, which have 
either four nuchal scales or four large nuchal scales and two small 
ones (CITES 2010a, p. 11). Like many crocodilians, the Morelet's 
crocodile lacks bony plates beneath the skin (osteoderms), making their 
skin more valuable as leather (Hurley 2005, p. 9). Adults have a 
yellowish-olive black skin, usually showing big black spots at the tail 
and at the back area, which in some adults can be entirely black. The 
ventral (underside) area is light in color, with a creamy yellowish 
tone. A thick and soft skin has made the Morelet's crocodile desirable 
for commercialization (CITES 2010a, p. 3).
    Opportunistic carnivores, juvenile Morelet's crocodiles feed on 
small invertebrates, especially insects and arachnids, while subadults 
eat a more diverse diet including mollusks, crustaceans, fish, 
amphibians, and small reptiles. Adult crocodiles consume reptiles, 
birds, and mammals (Platt et al. 2002, p. 82; S[aacute]nchez 2005, p. 
7; Platt et al. 2006, pp. 283-285; CITES 2008, p. 9, CITES 2010a, p. 
3). This species is also known to exhibit necrophagy (consumption of 
dead animal carcasses over an extended period (several days)) and 
interspecific kleptoparasitism (stealing of food from one individual by 
another individual) (Platt et al. 2007, p. 310). Female Morelet's 
crocodiles attain sexual maturity at about 4.9 ft. (1.5 m) in length, 
at approximately 7-8 years of age. Males attain sexual maturity at 
larger sizes than females, although this size may vary by habitat, 
nutrition, and other environmental factors (Rainwater 2011, pers. 
comm.)
    A growth rate of 0.63 inches (in) per month (1.6 centimeters (cm) 
per month) was observed in Morelet's crocodiles during the first 3 
years of life under protected conditions in Mexico, while a rate of 
0.94-1.18 in per month (2.4-3.0 cm per month) was achieved under 
farming conditions (P[eacute]rez-Higareda et al. 1995, p. 173). Adult 
females build nests and lay 20-40 eggs per clutch (Hurley 2005, p. 3; 
S[aacute]nchez 2005, p. 6), with an average of 35 eggs per clutch 
(CITES 2008, p. 9; CITES 2010a, p. 3). Nests consist of mounds composed 
of grasses, sedges, leaves, soil and woody material (Rainwater 2011, 
pers. comm.), and are generally constructed at the beginning of the wet 
season (April-June). They are located on the shores of freshwater 
wetlands, as well as in coastal lagoons and mangrove patches (Platt et 
al. 2008a, pp. 179-182).
    An analysis based on DNA microsatellite data from hatchlings 
collected at 10 Morelet's crocodile nests in Belize showed that progeny 
from 5 of the 10 nests were sired by at least two males (McVay et al. 
2008, p. 643). These data suggested that multiple paternities was a 
mating strategy for the Morelet's crocodile and was not an isolated 
event. In addition, this information may be useful in the application 
of conservation and management techniques for the species.
    The eggs of Morelet's crocodiles hatch in September-October, 65-90 
days after they are laid. Females attend the nest during incubation, 
and can assist the newborns to leave the nest. Both parents protect 
juveniles against predators and other adult crocodiles (CITES 2010a, p. 
3). Nest failures due to flooding and predation, both avian and 
mammalian, are common (Platt et al. 2008a, p. 184). Expected lifespan 
in the wild is 50-65 years (Hurley 2005, p. 4.) The Morelet's crocodile 
exhibits and shares with other crocodilians many acoustic and visual 
signals that convey reproductive, territorial, and other types of 
information (Senter 2008, p. 354).
    The Morelet's crocodile occurs primarily in freshwater environments 
such as lakes, swamps, and slow-moving rivers, but can temporarily 
inhabit intermittent freshwater bodies, such as flooded savannahs, and 
is occasionally observed in brackish coastal lagoons (Villegas 2006, p. 
8). Floating and emergent vegetation provide cover to protect young 
crocodiles from predators, including cannibalism by adult crocodiles 
(S[aacute]nchez 2005, p. 7). In contrast to the Morelet's crocodile, 
the American crocodile feeds mainly on fish and occurs primarily in 
coastal or brackish environments, such as coastal mangrove swamps, 
brackish and saltwater bays, lagoons, marshes, tidal rivers, and 
brackish creeks. American crocodiles can also be found in abandoned 
coastal canals and borrow pits, and may range inland into freshwater 
environments preferred by the Morelet's crocodile, such as lakes and 
lower reaches of large

[[Page 30823]]

rivers. American and Morelet's crocodiles have been known to lay eggs 
within the same nest mound as conspecifics, suggesting a more 
gregarious and tolerant demeanor (Brien et al. 2007, pp. 17-18).
    The historical distribution of the Morelet's crocodile comprised 
the eastern coastal plain of Mexico, most of the Yucatan Peninsula, 
Belize, and northern Guatemala (Hurley 2005, p. 1), with an estimated 
historical distribution covering 173,746 mi\2\ (450,000 km\2\) (Sigler 
and Dom[iacute]nguez Laso 2008, pp. 11-12). Approximately 51 percent of 
the original geographic distribution in Mexico remains undisturbed, 
while approximately 49 percent is disturbed or altered (Mexico 2006, p. 
17, CITES 2010a, p. 16). In linear terms, the amount of undisturbed 
shoreline habitat available in Mexico to the Morelet's crocodile is 
about 15,534 mi (25,000 km) of shoreline, which is approximately 72 
percent of the total undisturbed shoreline habitat available throughout 
the species' range. According to CONABIO, the amount of undisturbed 
shoreline habitat available to the Morelet's crocodile in Belize and 
Guatemala is estimated to be 2,050 mi (3,300 km) and 4,163 mi (6,700 
km), respectively, or 9 and 19 percent of the total undisturbed 
shoreline habitat available throughout the species' range (CONABIO 
2005, pp. 16-19).
    Historical estimates of total population sizes in the three range 
countries are unavailable or imprecise, and we were not able to find 
any additional data on historical, rangewide population estimates for 
the species. While not quantifiable or documented by field surveys, Lee 
(1996, p. 134) characterized the historical distribution and abundance 
of the Morelet's crocodile in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico as 
follows: ``Throughout its range, nearly every local aguada (flood) has 
(or had) its lagarto, which generally proves to be C. moreletii.'' The 
same probably could be said about Belize and Guatemala.
    It has been widely reported, however, that by the middle of the 
20th century, populations of Morelet's crocodiles were widely depleted 
due primarily to overharvest for commercial purposes during the 1940s 
and1950s. In ``Crocodiles: An action plan for their conservation,'' 
Thorbjarnarson (1992, p. 68 and the references cited therein) 
characterized the Mexican populations of Morelet's crocodiles in the 
early 1990s as very depleted in the Mexican States of Tamaulipas and 
Veracruz, recovering to some degree and viable in northeastern Mexico, 
and severely threatened in Tabasco State and Campeche State. However, 
populations of Morelet's crocodiles were not depleted in southern 
Chiapas State and eastern Quintana Roo State (Sian Ka'an Biosphere 
Reserve).
    Few historical estimates for the Morelet's crocodile in Belize are 
available, but based on surveys during 1978 and 1979, Abercrombie et 
al. (1980, p. 103) reported that very few adults were observed in areas 
where they had previously been relatively abundant. This condition was 
attributed to overexploitation (i.e., commercial trade in hides). 
Thorbjarnarson (1992, p. 55) characterized the Morelet's crocodile 
populations in the early 1990s as generally depleted in the northern 
part of Belize, but relatively abundant in several other areas. 
Abercrombie et al. estimated the total population of Morelet's 
crocodiles older than 9 months of age in Belize at 2,200-2,500 
individuals (Abercrombie et al. 1982, p. 16). Nothing was known in the 
scientific literature at that time about populations in the southern 
part of Belize. The only available countrywide estimates for the 
Morelet's crocodile in Belize suggested a total population size of 
25,000-30,000 individuals that was declining in number in 1945, was 
near depletion between 1970 and 1980, and, in response to several 
protective measures, had undergone a slow recovery by 2000 to about 
20,000 individuals (Finger et al. 2002, p. 199).
    Thorbjarnarson (1992, p. 64) characterized the Guatemalan 
populations in the early 1990s as depleted, but capable of recovery. He 
indicated that 75 individuals had been reported at three lakes in the 
Pet[eacute]n Region, in the northern portion of the country, and that 
Morelet's crocodiles were known to be common in other parts of that 
region.
    By the late 1990s, little had changed with regard to our knowledge 
of the distribution and abundance of the Morelet's crocodile. In 
``Crocodiles: Status survey and conservation action plan (second 
edition),'' Ross (1998, pp. 46-47) characterized several populations of 
Morelet's crocodiles in all three countries as depleted. In some areas, 
however, including the Lacand[oacute]n Forest (Chiapas State, Mexico) 
and the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve (Quintana Roo State, Mexico), 
healthy populations of the Morelet's crocodile existed. These findings 
were based on anecdotal reports and incidental records; numerical data 
were not readily available.
    Based on extrapolations of habitat relationships (e.g., vegetation 
type, size of wetland/riverine feature, and disturbance factors, 
described in more detail in CONABIO 2005, pp. 16-19) and frequency of 
encounter rates (derived from country-specific field research), the 
potential global population of free-ranging Morelet's crocodiles in 
2004 was estimated to be 102,432 individuals (all age classes; 79,718 
individuals in Mexico, 8,803 in Belize, and 13,911 in Guatemala), 
including approximately 19,400 adults (CONABIO 2005, pp. 17-19).

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations, 50 CFR 424, 
set forth the procedures for listing, reclassifying, or removing 
species from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
and Plants. ``Species'' is defined by the Act as including any species 
or subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct 
vertebrate population segment of fish or wildlife that interbreeds when 
mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). Once the ``species'' is determined, we 
then evaluate whether that species may be endangered or threatened 
because of one or more of the five factors described in section 4(a)(1) 
of the Act. We must consider these same five factors in reclassifying 
or delisting a species. For species that are already listed as 
endangered or threatened, the analysis of threats must include an 
evaluation of both the threats currently facing the species, and the 
threats that are reasonably likely to affect the species in the 
foreseeable future following the delisting or downlisting and the 
removal or reduction of the Act's protections. We may delist a species 
according to 50 CFR 424.11(d) if the best available scientific and 
commercial data indicate that the species is neither endangered nor 
threatened for the following reasons: (1) The species is extinct; (2) 
the species has recovered and is no longer endangered or threatened; 
and/or (3) the original scientific data used at the time the species 
was classified were in error.

Factor A. Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of the Species' Habitat or Range

    The overharvest for commercial purposes, rather than habitat 
destruction or modification, was the primary reason for the Morelet's 
crocodile being listed under the Act and its inclusion in CITES. 
However, the Act requires an analysis of current and future potential 
impacts to the species based on modification or destruction of habitat.

[[Page 30824]]

    The petition (CONABIO 2005) highlights habitat degradation as a 
potential threat, especially if it involves lack of prey and eventual 
contamination of water bodies. Currently, the extent of habitat 
degradation is estimated to be moderate in Mexico and Belize, and 
slightly higher in northern Pet[eacute]n, Guatemala (CONABIO 2005, 
Annex 1, p. 10). However, as stated previously, historical estimates of 
rangewide habitat destruction for the Morelet's crocodile are 
unavailable or imprecise. We found that the data on habitat destruction 
were primarily presented separately for each individual country. 
Therefore, the following analysis of the potential threats to the 
species from habitat destruction or modification first presents the 
specific information available for the Morelet's crocodile in each 
country, and then presents the general information that was available 
for the species as a whole.

Mexico

    The Morelet's crocodile is known historically from 10 states in 
Mexico (from east to west): Quintana Roo, Yucat[aacute]n, Campeche, 
Chiapas, Tabasco, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Hidalgo, San Luis Potos[iacute], 
and Tamaulipas ([Aacute]guilar 2005, p. 2). Based on available 
information and interviews during a 1995 site visit to Mexico by the 
IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group, Ross (1998, pp. 13) suggested ``with 
some confidence'' that the Morelet's crocodile was widely distributed 
throughout most of its original range. These states were resurveyed 
between 2000 and 2004 to assess current Morelet's crocodile populations 
in those areas.
    Surveys conducted between 2000 and 2004 documented the widespread 
distribution and relative abundance of wild populations of the 
Morelet's crocodile in Mexico (Dom[iacute]nguez-Laso et al. 2005, pp. 
21-30; also summarized in S[aacute]nchez Herrera 2000, pp. 17-19; 
CONABIO 2005, pp. 11-13 and Annex 5; S[aacute]nchez Herrera and 
[Aacute]lvarez-Romero 2008, p. 415; Garc[iacute]a et al. 2007, pp. 31-
32; Sigler and Dom[iacute]nguez Laso 2008, pp. 11-13). Surveys found 
Morelet's crocodiles at 63 sites across all 10 Mexican states 
comprising the species' entire historic range in Mexico (CONABIO 2005, 
p. 12). Habitat evaluations based on five environmental components 
rated habitat quality as excellent at 10 sites (24 percent), or as 
favorable or suitable at 24 sites (57 percent). Furthermore, evidence 
of the presence of the Morelet's crocodile was found in cultivated 
areas and at sites with ``intermediate'' quality habitats (CONABIO 
2005, p. 13). This suggested that the Morelet's crocodile does not 
require undisturbed habitat in order to occupy a site. Habitat mapping 
resulted in an estimated minimum of 15,675 mi (25,227 km) of shoreline 
as suitable Morelet's crocodile habitat in Mexico, which is 72 percent 
of the estimated suitable shoreline habitat available throughout the 
species' range (CONABIO 2005, pp. 14-16).
    Population characteristics of the Morelet's crocodiles in Mexico 
were also determined during the 2000-2004 field surveys. All age 
classes were well represented (34 percent juveniles, 47 percent 
subadults, and 19 percent adults), indicating good recruitment 
(Dom[iacute]nguez-Laso et al. 2005, p. 31). A higher proportion of 
males to females (1.55 to 1 overall versus about 1 male per female) 
were observed in all age classes, except older subadults 
(Dom[iacute]nguez-Laso et al. 2005, pp. 33-34). Mean frequency of 
encounter, based on 62 localities surveyed--excluding one outlier site 
with an atypically large crocodile population--was 5.76 individuals per 
0.62 mi (= 1 kilometer (km) of shoreline ((mode = 3.16 individuals per 
km); Dom[iacute]nguez-Laso et al. 2005, pp. 30, 40). These frequency of 
encounter rates were similar to those reported for other sites, for 
example: (1) Sigler et al. (2002, p. 222) reported rates of 8.33-18.5 
individuals per km) at various sites throughout Mexico and commented 
that these were the highest rates ever reported for that country; (2) 
Cede[ntilde]o-V[aacute]zquez (2002, p. 353) reported rates of 1-2 
individuals per km), when present (22 of 40 surveys; 711 individuals 
counted; all age classes represented; hatchlings in September), at 
Bahia de Chetumal and R[iacute]o Hondo, Mexico (n = 17 sites) and 
commented on the recovery of the species; (3) Cede[ntilde]o-
V[aacute]zquez et al. (2006, p. 15) reported rates of 7.6 and 5.3 
individuals per km at La Arrigue[ntilde]a, Campeche State, and 
commented that this suggested a healthy population. A population 
estimate--based on (a) extrapolations of 3.16 individuals per km, (b) 
19 percent adults, and (c) a cautious estimate of occupied habitat 
(15,675 mi (25,227 km) of river habitat)--produced a result of 
approximately 79,718 wild individuals (all ages) in Mexico comprising 
78 percent of the total wild population, including approximately 15,146 
adults in Mexico (Dom[iacute]nguez-Laso 2005, p. 40).
    New information now available to the Service documents updates in 
the geographic distribution of the Morelet's crocodile in Mexico. 
Because of several unauthorized introductions or escapes from captive-
breeding facilities in areas outside of the reported range of the 
species, the Morelet's crocodile has become established in the wild at 
three sites: Chacahua, Oaxaca State; Villa Flores, Chiapas State; and 
Laguna de Alcuzahue, Colima State ([Aacute]lvarez Romero et al. 2008, 
p. 415). Several captive-breeding facilities along the Pacific coast in 
western Mexico contain Morelet's crocodiles. These facilities are 
located in areas outside of the reported range of the species, but 
potentially within appropriate habitat for this species. Concerns have 
been raised about these introductions and the potential negative 
impacts of this ``exotic'' or ``invasive'' species on the local biota 
([Aacute]lvarez Romero et al. 2008, pp. 415, 417). Although genetic 
evidence suggests that hybridization with the American crocodile is a 
long-standing, natural situation (Ross, 2011 pers. comm.), Mexico is 
making efforts to diagnose potential threats to the native American 
crocodile caused by hybridization with the introduced Morelet's 
crocodile on the Pacific coast of Mexico. The goal of these efforts is 
to generate morphological and molecular identification materials and 
study the population dynamics of the American crocodile. It will 
include monitoring and harvest of Morelet's crocodiles and hybrids for 
scientific research (CITES 2010a, p. 6).
    According to the information presented in CONABIO 2005, the 
Morelet's crocodile in Mexico occupies at least 12 protected areas 
(CONABIO 2005, p. 30 and Annex 6). Part of the Sistema Nacional de 
[Aacute]reas Naturales Protegidas (SINANP or National System of 
Protected Natural Areas, described more fully in the Factor D section, 
Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms), encompasses 13 percent 
of the species' range and includes the following areas: Los Tuxtlas 
Biosphere Reserve, Pantanos de Centla Biosphere Reserve, Laguna de 
T[eacute]rminos Biosphere Reserve, Hampolol Wildlife Conservation and 
Research Center, El Palmar State Preserve, R[iacute]a Lagartos 
Biosphere Reserve, Yum Balam Biosphere Reserve, Laguna Nichupte, Sian 
Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, Bahia Chetumal (Bay), and R[iacute]o Hondo 
(River).
    The Government of Mexico's 2010 CITES proposal to transfer the 
Morelet's crocodile from CITES Appendix I to CITES Appendix II provided 
updated information on the number of protected areas for the Morelet's 
crocodile in Mexico. About 77 Federal and certified protected areas in 
Mexico provide shelter and legal protection to the Morelet's crocodile 
in its potential range. Of these, 11 have records of the species 
covering 7,763,147 acres (3,141,634 hectares (ha)) (CITES 2010a, pp. 
11, 17-20). The Government of

[[Page 30825]]

Mexico designated 8 of the 11 protected areas containing Morelet's 
crocodiles as Biosphere Reserves, and the 3 remaining protected areas 
containing Morelet's crocodiles as Flora and Fauna Protection Areas. As 
stated above, these protected areas are part of SINANP (described more 
fully in the Factor D section, Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory 
Mechanisms).
    The Government of Mexico's 2010 CITES proposal used both a 
narrative description (CITES 2010a, p. 11) and a list (CITES 2010a, pp. 
17-20) to indicate that there are 11 federally protected areas in 
Mexico containing Morelet's crocodile. CONABIO 2005 used a narrative 
description (CONABIO 2005, p. 30) to indicate that there are at least 
12 federally protected areas in Mexico containing Morelet's crocodile 
(CONABIO 2005, p. 30), but did not include a list of the federally 
protected areas. Based on the information available to the Service, we 
were unable to find any additional data to explain the difference in 
the numbers of federally protected areas cited in these two documents. 
The Government of Mexico's 2010 CITES proposal is the more recent 
document, and we consider it to contain the best available scientific 
and commercial data on the number of federally protected areas in 
Mexico.
    The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially 
as Waterfowl Habitat (also known as the Ramsar Convention) is an 
intergovernmental treaty that provides a framework for international 
cooperation for the conservation of wetland habitats. CONABIO 2005 did 
not provide information on whether the Ramsar Convention protects any 
Morelet's crocodile habitat in Mexico. However, this information was 
included in the Government of Mexico's 2010 CITES proposal. According 
to their 2010 CITES proposal, there are 41 Ramsar sites in the 
potential range of the Morelet's crocodile in Mexico, 13 of which have 
records of the species covering 6,779,875 ac (2,743,718 ha) (CITES 
2010a, pp. 11, 17-20).
    According to the information presented in CONABIO 2005, one of the 
main potential threats to the Morelet's crocodile is habitat 
destruction and fragmentation due to residential and infrastructure 
development, such as dams, roads, residential areas, and irrigated 
fields (CONABIO 2005, Annex 2, pp. 4-5). The information presented in 
CONABIO 2005 indicated that land reform and the ensuing colonization of 
undeveloped areas are a potential threat to the Morelet's crocodile, 
but the Government of Mexico has no such actions planned at this time 
(CONABIO 2005, p. 33). This threat of habitat degradation is 
ameliorated in Mexico by the Ley General de Equilibrio Ecol[oacute]gico 
y Protecci[oacute]n al Ambiente (LGEEPA; General Ecological Equilibrium 
and Environmental Protection Law). This 1988 law has strict 
restrictions against land use changes in Mexico, especially for 
undisturbed habitat such as those areas used by the Morelet's crocodile 
(CONABIO 2005, p. 25). This law is supported by several others in 
Mexico that ensure the conservation of native flora and fauna in Mexico 
(see discussion in the Factor D section, Inadequacy of Existing 
Regulatory Mechanisms; also see CONABIO 2005, Annex 3).
    According to the information presented by CONABIO, even in the 
historic context of prolonged habitat alteration, wild populations of 
Morelet's crocodiles remained abundant; so much so that large, 
commercial exploitation of the species was occurring up until federal 
and international protections were put in place 40 years ago. 
Alteration of Morelet's crocodile habitat occurring since then may have 
produced some additional reductions in local populations, but these 
reductions are not comparable to those of the past. In addition, even 
in areas where changes to the original environment are not reversible, 
evidence points to a certain degree of tolerance by Morelet's 
crocodiles, especially when the habitat alterations are a result of 
agriculture or low technology livestock production (CONABIO 2005, p. 
25).
    Based on surveys, it appears that the Morelet's crocodile in Mexico 
occurs in all 10 states from where it traditionally has been reported 
(CONABIO 2005, pp. 11-19). Although approximately 49 percent of the 
original range in Mexico has been altered, much of the altered habitat 
is still occupied by the Morelet's crocodile. Approximately 77,220 
mi\2\ (200,000 km\2\) of undisturbed habitat remains in Mexico, which 
is equivalent to approximately 15,534 mi (25,000 km) of shoreline. The 
Government of Mexico protects habitat occupied by the Morelet's 
crocodile in 11 areas designated by the Government of Mexico as either 
Biosphere Reserves or Flora and Fauna Protection Areas covering a total 
of 7,763,147 ac (3,141,634 ha). In addition, the Ramsar Convention 
protects Morelet's crocodile habitat at 13 sites in Mexico covering 
6,779,875 ac (2,743,718 ha). We do not have any information or data on 
the amount of geographic overlap, if any, between the areas of habitat 
protected by the Government of Mexico versus that protected by the 
Ramsar Convention. Therefore, we considered these two protection 
mechanisms as providing separate, but complementary, habitat protection 
as part of our analysis of habitat protection under this final rule.
    We find that the information presented in the petition, as well as 
the additional information available to the Service, represents the 
best available scientific and commercial data on habitat destruction or 
modification for Morelet's crocodiles in Mexico. Although moderate 
habitat destruction or modification is currently affecting local 
populations of Morelet's crocodiles in Mexico, and this is likely to 
continue in the foreseeable future, these activities would not have a 
significant impact on the species because they would be subject to 
conservation measures under the Government of Mexico's regulatory 
framework. This framework will continue to provide adequate protection 
to the Morelet's crocodile and its habitat in the foreseeable future. 
Surveys conducted found Morelet's crocodiles at 63 sites across all 10 
Mexican states comprising the species' entire historic range in Mexico 
(CONABIO 2005, p. 12). Given that Mexico contains more than 85 percent 
of the species' natural range and an estimated 78 percent of all wild 
individuals, that 7,763,147 ac (3,141,634 ha) of habitat are protected 
by the Government of Mexico, and that 6,779,875 ac (2,743,718 ha) of 
habitat are protected by the Ramsar Convention, we conclude that 
habitat destruction or modification is neither a threat to, nor is it 
anticipated to significantly impact, the Morelet's crocodile in Mexico 
in the foreseeable future.

Belize

    The Morelet's crocodile was historically known from all six 
districts in Belize (from north to south): Corozal, Orange Walk, 
Belize, Cayo, Toledo (Anonymous 1998), and Stann Creek (Platt et al 
1999, p. 397.) According to information provided by CONABIO, virtually 
all of the country contained suitable habitat for the species. The 
style of economic development in Belize has not required massive 
alteration of the natural environment. Thus, in general, no extensive 
and drastic alteration of Morelet's crocodile habitat has occurred in 
Belize (CONABIO 2005, p. 26). The current amount of altered versus 
unaltered current habitat for the Morelet's crocodile in Belize is 
unknown, but CONABIO estimated the current amount of potentially 
suitable habitat to be approximately 2,050 mi (3,300 km) of shoreline 
(CONABIO 2005, pp.14-19).

[[Page 30826]]

    While the species is widespread in the northern portion of the 
country, it is naturally limited to a narrow region of lowlands along 
the coast in the southern part of Belize, which is otherwise 
mountainous (Schmidt 1924, p. 80; Abercrombie et al. 1982, pp. 12-16; 
Platt et al. 1999, p. 395; Platt and Thorbjarnarson 2000a, pp. 25-26). 
Teams not associated with the Mexican effort to delist the species 
recently surveyed these states, in part, to assess Morelet's crocodile 
populations in those areas. Based on recent surveys, all six districts 
historically known to contain Morelet's crocodiles were surveyed in a 
general characterization of the biodiversity of Belize (Boles 2005, p. 
4; Belize Forest Department 2006, p. 22; Biological-Diversity.info Web 
site 2009). At Spanish Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, in the north-central 
part of the country, Meerman et al. (2004, pp. 23-24 and 30-32) 
determined that the Morelet's crocodile was fairly common at the site 
(frequency of encounter rate = 1.4-2.4 individuals per km). At 
Mayflower Bocawina National Park, near the coast in the southeastern 
part of the country, Meerman et al. (2003b, p. 30) unexpectedly located 
the Morelet's crocodile at fast-flowing streams such as Silk Grass 
Creek. While this specimen could have been introduced at the site, its 
occurrence could also be natural. Along the Macal River, in west-
central Belize, Stafford et al. (2003, pp. 18, 20) located a breeding 
population of the Morelet's crocodile (frequency of encounter rate = 
1.48 individuals per km (2001) and 1.25 individuals per km (2002)) at a 
mountainous site at 1,476 ft. (450 m) elevation (higher than expected). 
A total population size at the Macal River site was calculated to be, 
at minimum, about 94 individuals (Stafford et al. 2003, p. 19).
    Earlier comparisons between spotlight surveys conducted in northern 
Belize in 1979-1980 and 1992-1997 also showed that Morelet's crocodiles 
were widely distributed and relatively abundant across several habitat 
types and levels of human accessibility (Platt and Thorbjarnarson 
2000b, p. 23). In addition to an extensive system of nature reserves, 
including significant areas of crocodile habitat, these researchers 
noted relatively high Morelet's crocodile encounter rates in wetlands 
surrounding sugarcane fields in this area. Morelet's crocodiles were 
observed in canals and ditches within the municipal limits of Belize 
City and Orange Walk, as well as in wetlands easily accessible from 
many villages (Platt and Thorbjarnarson 2000b, p. 23).
    Population characteristics of Morelet's crocodiles in Belize were 
also determined during these surveys. Size class distribution--25.4 
percent adults in the 1990s, compared with 5-10 percent in an earlier 
study--was consistent with population recovery from past 
overexploitation (Platt and Thorbjarnarson 2000b, p. 24). Platt and 
Thorbjarnarson (2000b, pp. 23, 26) reported an overall frequency of 
encounter of 1.56 individuals per km; encounter rates were much higher 
in nonalluvial (8.20 individuals per km) and alluvial (6.11 individuals 
per km) lagoons than in rivers and creeks (0.95 individuals per km) or 
in mangrove habitats (0.24 individuals per km). While a significant, 
male-biased sex ratio (5.3 males per 1 female versus about 1 male per 
female) was identified, the reasons were unclear (Platt and 
Thorbjarnarson 2000a, pp. 23, 27). Based on extrapolations of habitat 
relationships in Mexico (which results in an estimated 2,080 mi (3,347 
km) of potential habitat in Belize) and an average frequency of 
encounter of 2.63 individuals per km, CONABIO stated that these results 
suggested a total Belize population estimate for the Morelet's 
crocodile of about 8,803 individuals in the wild (all age classes), 
comprising 9 percent of the total wild population, including about 
1,673 adults (CONABIO 2005, p. 18). Although this is not a typically 
constructed population estimate, this estimate constitutes the best 
available scientific and commercial data for the nationwide abundance 
of Morelet's crocodiles in Belize. Although Platt suggested that these 
overall values for Belize may be somewhat inflated because habitat in 
southern Belize is less suitable for Morelet's crocodiles than areas in 
the north (Platt 2008, pers. comm.), frequency of encounter values for 
Morelet's crocodile populations and total population sizes in Belize 
may have further increased due to continued protection for over a 
decade since these surveys in the 1990s. Boles (2005, p. 4) and Belize 
Forest Department (2006, p. 22), based on countrywide analyses, both 
suggested that the Morelet's crocodile had ``recovered'' in Belize and 
could be categorized as ``healthy.''
    CONABIO did not present information about the distribution and 
abundance of the Morelet's crocodile in protected areas in Belize. 
Other information obtained by the Service, however, suggests that the 
species is present in many protected areas in Belize, including: 
Sarstoon Temash National Park (Meerman et al. 2003a, p. 45), Mayflower 
Bocawina National Park (Meerman et al. 2003b, p. 30), and Spanish Creek 
Wildlife Sanctuary (Meerman et al. 2004, pp. 30-31). Overall, about 18-
26 percent of the national territory of Belize is under some form of 
protection (BERDS 2005b, p. 1; Young 2008, p. 29). In several of these 
protected areas, natural resource extraction is permitted from the 
site, thus potentially limiting these areas' contribution to the 
conservation status of the Morelet's crocodile. However, we have no 
evidence that resource extraction in these Belizean protected areas is 
currently or anticipated to affect significantly the Morelet's 
crocodile.
    We find that the data presented by CONABIO, and additional data 
available to the Service, represent the best available scientific and 
commercial data on habitat destruction or modification for Morelet's 
crocodiles in Belize. Although habitat destruction or modification is 
currently affecting some local populations of Morelet's crocodiles in 
Belize, and this is likely to continue in the foreseeable future, we do 
not have any evidence that habitat destruction or modification is 
currently or anticipated to be a threat to the Morelet's crocodile in 
Belize.

Guatemala

    The Morelet's crocodile was historically known from the northern 
portion of Guatemala (States of Pet[eacute]n and Alta Verapaz; Schmidt 
1924, pp. 79-84). According to information provided by CONABIO, the 
Pet[eacute]n region of Guatemala was scarcely populated by humans 
before 1960 (an estimated 15,000 to 21,000 inhabitants in approximately 
12,960 square miles (33,566 km\2\) or about one third of Guatemala's 
area) (CONABIO 2005). In 1961, the Government of Guatemala started an 
official program to foster colonization in the region, and this caused 
environmental alteration, as well as increased human conflicts with 
crocodiles. Slightly more than 50 percent of the potential habitat for 
the Morelet's crocodile has been altered in Guatemala (CONABIO 2005, p. 
26). While the current amount of altered versus unaltered habitat for 
the Morelet's crocodile in Guatemala is unknown, CONABIO estimated the 
current amount of potentially suitable habitat to be approximately 
4,163 mi (6,700 km) of shoreline (CONABIO 2005, pp.14-19). According to 
information provided by CONABIO, studies on the status of Morelet's 
crocodile habitat and population in Guatemala are underway, and the 
potential threats to the species are under assessment (CONABIO 2005, p. 
26).
    Recent nationwide survey results are not available for Guatemala, 
but populations appear to remain in their

[[Page 30827]]

historical range in the northern part of the country, especially the 
central portion of the State of Pet[eacute]n, Laguna del Tigre National 
Park (northwestern portion of the State of Pet[eacute]n) 
(Casta[ntilde]eda Moya et al. 2000, p. 63), and the El Mirador-
R[iacute]o Azul National Park (ParksWatch 2002, p. 3). The Laguna del 
Tigre National Park, the largest national park in Guatemala and the 
largest protected wetland in Central America, is home to the largest 
numbers of Morelet's crocodiles in Guatemala (ParksWatch 2003, p. 1).
    While information regarding the distribution and abundance of 
Morelet's crocodile in Guatemala is sparse, investigations conducted in 
Laguna del Tigre National Park (date unspecified, reported in 1998) 
estimated 4.35 individuals per km in the Sacluc River and 2.1 
individuals per km in the San Pedro River, with a population structure 
typical of stable populations (Casta[ntilde]eda Moya 1998a, p. 13). 
Casta[ntilde]eda Moya (1997, p. 1; 1998a, p. 521) characterized 
Morelet's crocodile distribution in the northern State of Pet[eacute]n, 
Guatemala, as fragmented, with the healthiest populations in the 
northern region of Pet[eacute]n, where human impact was lower. In a 
follow-up study at Laguna del Tigre National Park, Casta[ntilde]eda 
Moya et al. (2000, pp. 62-63) reported a mean frequency of encounter 
rate for the entire park of 4.3 individuals per km, with maximum values 
of 12.28 individuals per km at Flor de Luna and 11.00 individuals per 
km at Laguna La Pista. The Morelet's crocodile was more frequently 
encountered in closed aquatic systems than in open aquatic systems. 
Juveniles were more frequently observed than were adults.
    Based on extrapolations of habitat relationships in Mexico (which 
resulted in an estimated 4,159.8 mi (6,694.5 km) of potential habitat 
in Guatemala) and an average frequency of encounter of 2.078 
individuals per km, CONABIO stated that there is an estimated total 
Guatemalan population of Morelet's crocodile of about 13,911 
individuals in the wild (all age classes) comprising 13 percent of the 
total wild population, including about 2,643 adults (CONABIO 2005, p. 
18). Although this is not a typically constructed population estimate, 
this population estimate constitutes the best available scientific and 
commercial data for the nationwide abundance of Morelet's crocodiles in 
Guatemala.
    While Guatemala has regulatory mechanisms in place to protect these 
habitats, it appears that the Government of Guatemala, until recently, 
was not able to enforce them adequately. Resource extraction, drug 
trade, a lack of regulatory enforcement, and financial issues limited 
protected areas' potential contribution to the conservation status of 
the Morelet's crocodile ((Instituto de Agricultura, Recursos Naturales 
y Agr[iacute]colas, Universidad Rafael Landivar, and Asociaci[oacute]n 
Instituto de Incidencia Ambiental (IARNA URL IIA) 2006, pp. 88-92). For 
example, the Laguna del Tigre National Park, together with the Laguna 
del Tigre Protected Biotope (a small area with a distinct set of 
environmental conditions that supports a particular ecological 
community of plants and animals) was considered critically threatened 
by drug trade, land grabs, the presence of human settlements, expanding 
agriculture and cattle ranching, poaching, forest fires, the oil 
industry, and the almost complete lack of institutional control over 
the area (ParksWatch 2003, p. 11). ParksWatch also deemed this national 
park, and its surrounding area, would not meet its biological diversity 
objectives in the immediate future unless urgent steps were taken 
(ParksWatch 2003, p. 11). However, the following year, ParksWatch noted 
major improvements at Laguna del Tigre since their 2003 report. We have 
obtained information on the specific protections recently provided to 
Morelet's crocodiles in the conservation areas of Guatemala, and events 
that reveal a commitment by the Guatemalan government to curtail 
illegal activities harmful to Laguna del Tigre National Park. We will 
go into detail in the Factor D section, Inadequacy of Existing 
Regulatory Mechanisms.
    Casta[ntilde]eda Moya et al. (2000, p. 61), based on historical 
references, cited increased destruction of habitat due to human 
encroachment as having an adverse effect on the species. Based on the 
research at Laguna del Tigre National Park, Casta[ntilde]eda Moya et 
al. (2000, pp. 61, 65) indicated that sibal (sawgrass) (Cladium 
jamaicense) was extensively burned each year. This burning constituted 
a major impact to the Morelet's crocodile habitat, as sibal habitat 
offered suitable insulation, food availability, nesting cover, and 
protection from predators. Furthermore, the fires facilitated the 
expansion of savannahs consisting almost exclusively of jimbal (Bambusa 
longifolia). Studies on the Morelet's crocodile in Pet[eacute]n suggest 
fires in jimbal groves prevent Morelet's crocodiles from reproducing 
because fire affects nesting sites (ParksWatch 2003, p. 13). In a more 
general sense, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) 
(2002, pp. 19-23) and Ruiz Ordo[ntilde]ez (2005, pp. 2-8) indicated 
several conservation threats at the national level in Guatemala, 
including habitat loss, habitat degradation, habitat fragmentation, 
overutilization of resources, environmental contamination and 
degradation, and the introduction of exotic species.
    For the past 10 years, USAID and the Wildlife Conservation Society 
(WCS) having been working with other nongovernmental organizations 
(NGOs) and the Guatemalan government to combat these issues. In their 
``Maya Biosphere Landscape Conservation Area, Guatemala, Implementation 
Plan FY 2008'' (WCS 2009, page 3), the WCS highlighted their central 
goals for ensuring the conservation of wide-ranging target species, 
including the Morelet's crocodile, were to contain the advance of the 
Laguna del Tigre agro-pastoral frontier and maintain the comparatively 
intact eastern bloc of the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) forest. 
Strategies to reduce impacts to wildlife in the MBR landscape include 
involving people in local communities, forest concessions, governments, 
and NGOs in local conservation efforts; developing adaptive management 
strategies to address tactical threats across the landscape; and 
educating local communities on best management practices across the MBR 
and beyond. Since 2003, efforts by the WCS have reduced areas burned in 
the MBR in Guatemala. Through educating locals on best management 
practices, conducting aerial flights, utilizing remote sensing to 
monitor changes in forest cover and fire, and establishing and 
patrolling a 47-km fire break, along with regularly reporting to the 
Guatemalan and provincial governments and national media, WCS's efforts 
have resulted in a 90 percent reduction in areas burned in the Laguna 
del Tigre portion of the MBR ((WCS 10 year report, no date given, p. 
6)).
    In addition, the president of Guatemala recently deployed 250 
specially trained soldiers to recover fully all the protected zones of 
El Pet[eacute]n in Laguna del Tigre National Park. The contingent, 
called the ``green battalion,'' will work jointly with the Guatemalan 
Attorney General's Office. This effort is aimed at combating drug 
trafficking and removal or destruction of natural and archeological 
resources in Laguna del Tigre, El Pet[eacute]n region of the MBR (Latin 
American Herald Tribune 2010).
    El Mirador-R[iacute]o Azul National Park in northeastern Guatemala 
is located in the department of Pet[eacute]n and maintains a population 
of Morelet's crocodiles (ParksWatch 2002, p. 3). The park is composed 
of two sections, which are divided by the Dos Lagunas Biotope. The 
western section is known as El

[[Page 30828]]

Mirador and the eastern part is known as R[iacute]o Azul. This area is 
considered by World Resources Institute to be the last pristine 
Guatemalan rainforest. It is also one of the few protected areas that 
have experienced little deforestation over the years. No permanent 
human residents live within the park borders or in its immediate 
surrounding areas. El Mirador-R[iacute]o Azul National Park is 
considered vulnerable, by ParksWatch, meaning that immediate 
conservation measures are not needed at this time, but monitoring is 
necessary to ensure the protection and maintenance of its biological 
diversity in the near future (ParksWatch 2002, p. 3). NGOs such as 
Asociaci[oacute]n Balam, WCS-Guatemala, the Asociati[oacute]n of Forest 
Communities of Pet[eacute]n (ACOFOP), the Guatemalan National Park 
Service (CONAP), the Guatemalan Archeological Institute (IDAEH), and 
the office of the Executive Secretary of the President of Guatemala 
formed an alliance called the ``Mesa Multisectorial para el Area 
Natural y Cultural de Mirador-Rio Azule.'' This alliance was formed to 
develop consensus among its team members regarding the long-term 
protection of the park and provide sustained economic contribution to 
the people of the MBR and of Guatemala.
    While CONABIO estimated that slightly more than 50 percent of the 
potential habitat for the Morelet's crocodile has been altered in 
Guatemala, they gave no information indicating to what extent (CONABIO 
2005, p. 26). Very little information has been collected about the 
consequences of forest fires, hunting, and habitat fragmentation to the 
Morelet's crocodile. However, Mexico saw the presence of the Morelet's 
crocodile in cultivated areas and at sites with ``intermediate'' 
quality habitats (CONABIO 2005, p. 13) in its own country, and Belize 
noted relatively high Morelet's crocodile encounter rates in wetlands 
surrounding sugarcane fields, canals, and ditches within the municipal 
limits of Belize (Platt and Thorbjarnarson 2000b, p. 23). This 
information suggests that the Morelet's crocodile does not require 
undisturbed habitat in order to occupy a site. The current amount of 
altered versus unaltered habitat for the Morelet's crocodile in 
Guatemala is unknown, but CONABIO estimated the current amount of 
potentially suitable habitat to be approximately 4,163 mi (6,700 km) of 
shoreline (CONABIO 2005, pp. 14-19).

Other Threats to the Species' Habitat

Recreational and Educational Activities

    Nonconsumptive recreational or educational uses in the form of 
ecotourism are ongoing and may grow in magnitude in the future. While 
CONABIO did not present precise information about the number of 
companies or sites visited by tourists, an informal internet search 
suggested that large numbers of ecotourism companies and nature sites 
in all three range countries were involved in this activity. At Tikal 
National Park in Guatemala, for example, the number of visitors has 
increased from 14,594 visitors in 1981, to 141,899 visitors in 2002 
(IARNA URL IIA 2006, p. 103). Many of these visitors potentially 
visited Morelet's crocodile areas in the Pet[eacute]n Region that are 
in the immediate vicinity of the park as part of their ecotourism 
experience.
    While we cannot completely rule out the potential for adverse 
effects to the Morelet's crocodile due to disturbance from ecotourism 
activity in Tikal National Park, we have found no evidence of such 
effects. Furthermore, we do not have any information to indicate that 
ecotourism is likely to become a serious problem in the future. 
Successful ecotourism, by its very nature, relies on the continued 
conservation and protection of the natural resources it uses. Although 
the number of visitors to protected areas is increasing and the demand 
for ecotourism may grow in the future, the ecotourism industry has a 
significant incentive to ensure that its activities do not become a 
serious problem to the Morelet's crocodile and its habitat in the 
future.
    Mazzotti et al. (2005, p. 984), however, did identify the following 
negative impacts associated with tourism development at Sian Ka'an 
Biosphere Reserve (Mexico):
    (1) Habitat loss;
    (2) Alteration of surface and underground water flow;
    (3) Ground water pollution;
    (4) Extraction of resources;
    (5) Erosion and sedimentation;
    (6) Decrease in biodiversity; and
    (7) Reduced traditional and recreational use for local communities.
    Visual pollution, including trash, as well as ``jeep safaris'' 
(caravans of small convertible sports utility vehicles being driven 
through the reserve) and boat traffic, is also increasing at Sian Ka'an 
Biosphere Reserve (Mazzotti et al. 2005, p. 992). While none of these 
factors was specifically linked to the Morelet's crocodile, all could 
apply were the situation to deteriorate. However, we do not have any 
information to indicate that the situation will deteriorate in the 
future. Biosphere Reserves in Mexico are part of the United Nations 
Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) ``Man and 
the Biosphere'' program and are legally protected under Mexican federal 
laws. Key features of biosphere reserves are core zones of complete 
protection of key resources surrounded by mixed-use buffer zones. These 
buffer zones are particularly important given the pressures on the Sian 
Ka'an Biosphere Reserve from tourism, and its culturally and 
archeologically significant areas (Mazzotti et al. 2005, p. 982). 
Recognizing these potential negative factors, geographically dispersed 
ecotourism involving limited numbers of visitors under controlled 
conditions to observe and photograph specimens from canoes, 
photographic blinds, or hiking trails can provide relatively benign 
opportunities to local residents for economic benefits that can serve 
as an alternative or disincentive to harvest the Morelet's crocodile 
(CONABIO 2005, p. 28).
    There is also evidence that ecotourism, as well as scientific 
research and wildlife conservation, are compatible activities with 
respect to the Morelet's crocodile. In Mexico, for example, ecotourists 
accompany biologists associated with the Amigos de Sian Ka'an group as 
they conduct surveys of the Morelet's crocodile at Sian Ka'an Biosphere 
Reserve, along the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Quintana Roo 
State (EcoColors Tours 2010, pp. 1). At another site, the La Ventanilla 
Eco-tourism Project in Oaxaca State, Mexico, international volunteers 
assist local residents and biologists to conserve the Morelet's 
crocodile, turtles, iguanas, and other species of wildlife (Volunteers 
for International Partnership-Mexico 2010, pp. 1-4). In Belize, 
tourists, as well as wildlife researchers from the United States and 
their Belizean counterparts, are implementing an ecological field study 
of the Morelet's crocodile at Lamanai Outpost Lodge and Research 
Station that eventually will lead to the development of a national 
management plan for the species (The Croc Docs 2010, pp. 1-6). If the 
biological data, in part collected by the ecotourists, support harvest, 
and effective enforcement regulations can be developed and implemented, 
this plan may include commercial exploitation of the Morelet's 
crocodile. In Guatemala, scientists and ecotourists are working 
cooperatively with the ProPet[eacute]n group to undertake conservation 
work at the Scarlet Macaw Biological Station in the

[[Page 30829]]

Maya Biosphere Reserve (ProPet[eacute]n 2009, p. 1). While these 
activities differ with regard to specific details, in general they 
provide positive conservation benefits to the Morelet's crocodile and 
demonstrate that ecotourism, as well as scientific research and 
wildlife conservation, can be compatible with respect to the species.

Agriculture, Grazing, and Infrastructure Development

    Agriculture, grazing, and infrastructure development (such as dams, 
roads, residential areas, and irrigated fields) generally are indirect 
impacts in that the purpose of the action is not focused on the 
crocodile. These activities can be either consumptive (for example, 
destruction of nests and eggs by machinery) or nonconsumptive (for 
example, loss of access to traditional nesting or feeding sites), and 
are generally manifested through habitat loss or fragmentation. 
Depending on the nature and extent of these activities, they may have a 
substantial negative impact on local Morelet's crocodile populations. 
Although agriculture, grazing, and infrastructure development are 
currently affecting local populations of Morelet's crocodiles, and this 
is likely to continue in the foreseeable future, we do not have any 
evidence that these activities are currently, or anticipated to be, a 
rangewide threat to the Morelet's crocodile.

Summary of Factor A

    Although some habitat degradation has occurred in Mexico, this 
threat is ameliorated by the LGEEPA. This law has strict restrictions 
against land use changes in Mexico, especially for undisturbed habitat 
such as those areas used by the Morelet's crocodile (CONABIO 2005, p. 
25). The Sistema Nacional de [Aacute]reas Naturales Protegidas (SINANP) 
also provides significant habitat protection in Mexico. The SINANP 
created designated protected areas because these areas contain key or 
representative ecosystems or species, or ecosystems or species that are 
at risk and require strict control. In Mexico, at least 11 protected 
areas contain populations of the Morelet's crocodile (CITES 2010a, pp. 
17-20). In Belize, at least three protected areas contain Morelet's 
crocodile populations (Meerman et al. 2003a, p. 45; Meerman et al. 
2003b, p. 30; Meerman et al. 2004, pp. 30-31). Mexico and Belize 
contain the majority of all wild Morelet's crocodiles (87 percent) and 
the majority of the potentially suitable habitat throughout the 
species' range (81 percent). We find that, although habitat destruction 
and modification is affecting individual crocodiles locally, the 
overall level of habitat protection in Mexico and Belize is currently 
adequate, and we anticipate that it will remain so.
    Based on current information, Guatemala contains the remaining 13 
percent of the wild Morelet's crocodiles and the remaining 19 percent 
of the potentially suitable habitat throughout the species' range. 
Although the Morelet's crocodile occupies at least two protected areas 
in Guatemala (Casta[ntilde]eda Moya et al. 2000, p. 63), one, the El 
Mirador-R[iacute]o Azul National Park, has no permanent human presence 
either in or surrounding the park and contains the last pristine 
rainforest in Guatemala, which has experienced very little 
deforestation. The NGO community has partnered with the President of 
Guatemala to establish a coalition to ensure long-term protection of 
this important national park, while providing for sustainable economic 
incentives to the people of the MBR and of Guatemala. The second 
protected area, Laguna del Tigre National Park, has been affected by 
past human encroachment, fire, deforestation, grazing, and 
infrastructure development. Although these factors may have affected 
local populations of Morelet's crocodiles, we have no evidence that it 
has affected the species rangewide. The government of Guatemala and the 
local and international NGO community have again partnered to address 
these issues through direct interventions, including local and 
international community in conservation efforts; and educating people 
on the use of best management practices. These efforts have resulted in 
a 90 percent reduction in fires in Laguna del Tigre National Park, and 
the successful interdiction of individuals conducting unlawful 
activities.
    Despite the localized impacts in all three countries, the current 
rangewide distribution of Morelet's crocodile now closely resembles the 
historical rangewide distribution. The species has existing available 
high-quality habitat, has a healthy population distribution, is 
abundant at known sites, and is expanding into new sites. Even in the 
face of habitat alteration, this species has been shown to occupy 
disturbed habitat. There have been observed increases in the relative 
abundance of the species, and a total population size of approximately 
19,400 adults in the three range countries. Species experts now widely 
characterize Morelet's crocodile populations as healthy. In addition, 
crocodilians are known to have a robust history strategy, including 
repeated production of offspring at intervals throughout the life 
cycle; long reproductive lives; high fecundity; and low egg and 
hatchling survival, likely enhanced by crocodilian parental care 
demonstrated for most species, including C. moreletii. The combined 
result is that crocodilians can sustain relatively high levels of 
mortality at all life stages without reducing recruitment or population 
growth. Thus the persistence of some anthropogenic threats at low 
levels such as killing, subsistence hunting, and fishing net 
entanglement are unlikely to constitute significant impacts to 
population persistence or even to recovery (Ross, 2011 pers. comm.).
    Although some local factors continue to affect the habitat for 
Morelet's crocodile, we have no information to indicate that these 
local factors are of sufficient magnitude to have a range-wide impact 
on the species to the point that would cause the Morelet's crocodile to 
meet the definition of either an endangered or a threatened species. 
Therefore, we find that the present or threatened destruction, 
modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range is not likely to 
threaten or endanger the Morelet's crocodile in the foreseeable future.

Factor B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

Commercial Harvest (Legal and Illegal Trade)

    The Morelet's crocodile was included in Appendix I of CITES on July 
1, 1975. Species included in Appendix I are species threatened with 
extinction that are or may be affected by trade. CITES prohibits 
international trade in specimens of these species unless the trade is 
not found to be detrimental to the survival of the species, the 
specimens in trade were legally acquired, and the purpose of the import 
is not for primarily commercial purposes or the specimen meets one of 
the exemptions established under the CITES Treaty. A more thorough 
explanation of CITES is found in the ``Convention on International 
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora'' discussion under 
the section Factor D. Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms.
    Overexploitation for commercial purposes prior to 1970 is widely 
accepted as the primary cause of a drastic, rangewide population 
decline of Morelet's crocodile (Platt and Thorbjarnarson 2000b, p. 21; 
CONABIO 2005, p. 27). Historically, commercial overexploitation, 
through the harvest of adult animals from the wild, was a

[[Page 30830]]

much greater threat to the Morelet's crocodile than habitat loss. 
During the first half of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of 
skins per year were marketed (CITES 2008, pp. 17, 20). The precise 
magnitude of the trade is unclear, however, because trade data for the 
Morelet's crocodile was recorded at a higher taxonomic level 
incorporating other crocodilians. See, for example, Loa Loza 1998a, pp. 
134-135 and Arroyo-Quiroz et al. 2007, p. 933. It is reported that 
prior to 1975, hide dealers in Belize purchased up to 12,000 skins 
annually, and an unknown number of skins were exported illegally in 
contravention to Mexican law (Plat and Thorbjarnarson 2000b, p. 21). 
Precise estimates of historical trade from Mexico or Guatemala were 
unavailable. Even now, the commercial market for designer fashion items 
made from high-quality crocodile skins, such as leather belts, 
footwear, wallets, and handbags, is highly lucrative. For example, a 
single pair of shoes may retail for hundreds of dollars, a handbag for 
several thousand dollars, and a tote bag for tens of thousands of 
dollars.

Legal Trade

    In 1997, the Government of Mexico established a system for 
registering, supervising, and enforcing Unidad de Manejo y 
Administraci[oacute]n (UMAs; Conservation Management and Administrative 
Units) for intensive reproduction of economically valuable natural 
resources, including the captive breeding of Morelet's crocodiles 
(CONABIO 2005, Annex 3, pp. 3-5). Commercial use of Morelet's 
crocodiles in Mexico for domestic trade was strictly limited to animals 
raised in closed-cycle, captive-breeding operations regulated by the 
Government of Mexico under the UMA system. For international trade, 
commercial trade was restricted to animals raised in these closed-
cycle, captive-breeding operations registered with the CITES 
Secretariat. In order for these closed-cycle, captive-breeding 
operations to be successful, great care was given to satisfying the 
biological requirements of the species (Cremieux et al. 2005, p. 417; 
Brien et al. 2007, pp. 1-26). According to Le[oacute]n Vel[aacute]zquez 
(2004, p. 52), there were approximately 30,000 Morelet's crocodiles in 
captive-breeding facilities in Mexico in 2004. There were 38,449 
Morelet's crocodiles housed in 19 Mexican closed-cycle, captive-
breeding operations in 2008 (CITES 2010a, p. 24). Currently, the annual 
production of Morelet's crocodiles in Mexican closed-cycle, captive-
breeding operations does not exceed 40,000 individuals (CITES 2010a, p. 
8).
    Under Mexican law, closed-cycle, captive-breeding operations 
wishing to make their Morelet's crocodiles available for commercial use 
must demonstrate that they are able to go beyond the F2 generation of 
reproducing individuals. This requirement supports the use of Morelet's 
crocodiles that is compatible with conservation of the species by 
offsetting the demand for crocodiles taken from the wild. Such 
facilities produced a variety of items including skins/hides, meat, 
live individuals as pets, stuffed figurines, and leather products 
(fashion accessories) for both domestic and international trade.
    Based on CITES annual reports for the period 1996-2005, Caldwell 
(2007, pp. 6-7) noted relatively low levels of international legal 
trade in products from Mexican captive-breeding operations during 1996-
1999 (fewer than 200 skins/year), but higher levels during 2000-2005 
(2,430 skins in 2001; 1,591 skins in 2002; and below 1,000 skins per 
year during the rest of the period). Japan has been the main importer 
of products from Mexican captive-breeding operations, with lesser 
quantities going to France, Italy, the Republic of Korea, and Spain 
(Caldwell 2007, p. 6).
    The United Nations Environment Programme--World Conservation 
Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) manages a trade database on behalf of the 
CITES Secretariat. Each Party to CITES is responsible for compiling 
annual reports to the CITES Secretariat regarding their country's trade 
in species protected under CITES. UNEP-WCMC enters the data from these 
annual reports into a trade database, which is used to analyze trade in 
CITES specimens. Due to the time needed to compile the data, the most 
recent year for which comprehensive trade statistics are available is 
normally 2 years prior to the current year.
    In general, prior to 2010, international legal trade consisted of 
small quantities of unfinished hides/skins or finished leather 
products, exported primarily from Mexico to Japan and European 
countries, as well as biological specimens destined for research. These 
countries process the unfinished hides/skins into leather products such 
as belts, footwear, wallets, and handbags that in turn are sold within 
their own country or re-exported for sale to other countries. Due to 
the listing status of the species under the Act, the United States 
cannot be a commercial destination for Morelet's crocodile skins and 
products. It is currently illegal to import Morelet's crocodile skins 
and products into the United States, unless the import is for 
scientific or enhancement purposes.
    In 2010, the Government of Mexico submitted a proposal to the 15th 
Meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP15) to transfer the 
Morelet's crocodile throughout its range to Appendix II of CITES with a 
zero quota for trade in wild specimens because the Government of Mexico 
concluded that the Morelet's crocodile no longer met the criteria for 
inclusion in Appendix I (see Factor D, Mexico's Proposal To Transfer 
the Morelet's Crocodile to CITES Appendix II; CITES 2010a, p. 1).
    According to the 2010 CITES proposal to transfer the Morelet's 
crocodile to Appendix II, the UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade Database showed 
that, until 2007, the parts and derivatives of the Morelet's crocodile 
most commonly found in trade were skins, skin pieces, and leather 
products, although other products include live specimens, eggs, bodies, 
scales, skulls, and shoes were also traded. The largest exporter 
between 2001 and 2007 was Mexico (8,498 skins, 750 skin pieces, and 
1,193 leather products), followed by Belize with 116 bodies, 766 eggs, 
and 3,124 specimens for scientific purposes (exported to the United 
States). The major importing countries were Japan (6,170 skins), United 
States (3,124 specimens for scientific purposes), Italy (1,219 skins), 
the Republic of Korea (560 skins), France (375 skins), and Spain (162 
skins) (CITES 2010a, p. 8).
    According to the CITES (CITES 2010a) proposal to transfer the 
Morelet's crocodile to Appendix II, the national harvest of animals 
from closed-cycle operations authorized in Mexico amounts to fewer than 
2,000 skins per year since the year 2000. In the period between 2000 
and 2009, 119 CITES export permits were issued in Mexico for a total of 
12,276 Morelet's crocodile skins. However, the total potential 
production from closed-cycle, captive-breeding operations were about 
16,500 individuals and approximately 10,000 skins per year (CITES 
2010a, p. 7).
    We examined the information on Mexico's closed-cycle, captive-
breeding operations in Annex 3 of the 2010 CITES proposal. According to 
the information provided in the Annex, there were 19 closed-cycle, 
captive-breeding operations registered as UMAs for the Morelet's 
crocodile in Mexico. Only 4 of the 19 UMAs had a captive population 
sufficient to support commercial trade, and only 2--both of which were 
registered with CITES--of these 4 could support international 
commercial trade. As of 2008, the captive population in these four UMAs 
ranged from 1,237 to 28,673 individuals.

[[Page 30831]]

The two UMAs that were not registered with CITES had the potential to 
produce 1,100 skins per year for local commercial trade (CITES 2010a, 
Annex 3, p. 24). The population levels for the remaining 15 UMAs were 
relatively low by comparison, ranging from 6 to 576 individuals. Rather 
than supporting commercial trade, 4 of the remaining 15 UMAs supported 
exhibition, 7 had no commercial production, 3 contributed to the 
economic support of the local community, and 1 was used for research.
    Three of these 19 Mexican captive-breeding operations were also 
registered with CITES, and could therefore commercially trade Morelet's 
crocodile products internationally, as well as domestically while the 
species was listed under Appendix I. However, one of these CITES-
registered captive-breeding operations contains only six individuals, 
and is used for exhibition purposes. Only two of the three CITES-
registered captive breeding operations commercially produce enough 
Morelet's crocodile skins with the annual production potential for 
international trade. These two captive-breeding operations have the 
potential to produce an estimated 2,500 skins annually for 
international trade (CITES 2010a, pp. 7 and 24, Annex 3). Please see 
the discussion in the Factor D section, Inadequacy of Existing 
Regulatory Mechanisms, for additional information on the three CITES-
registered captive-breeding operations.
    There are no captive-breeding facilities in Belize or Guatemala 
that are providing specimens or skins for trade, either domestically or 
internationally under the CITES captive-breeding exception (CITES 
2010c). In Belize, Morelet's crocodiles are officially protected from 
commercial harvest. Platt and Thorbjarnarson (2000b) found no evidence 
of commercial poaching of Morelet's crocodiles for skins or meat in 
Belize (Platt and Thorbjarnarson 2000b, p. 27). Reportedly, the species 
is not subject to commercial activities in Guatemala, given that 
Guatemala's Comisi[oacute]n Nacional de [Aacute]reas Protegidas (CONAP; 
National Commission on Protected Areas, also known as the Guatemalan 
National Park Service) prohibits the export and trade in wild specimens 
of endangered species (CITES 2010a, p. 7).

Illegal Trade

    According to the 2010 CITES proposal to transfer the Morelet's 
crocodile to Appendix II, the UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade Database showed few 
illegal movements of parts and derivatives of the Morelet's crocodile 
between 1975 and 2007 from Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize, with the 
United States as the only destination. This suggests that there is a 
very low level of illegal trade and that it is only with the United 
States; however, enforcement actions are not a required field for CITES 
Annual Reports. Unlike the United States, most countries do not specify 
the action taken on imports. Thus, the fact that illegal trade to the 
United States is documented in the WCMC database does not mean that 
this is the only illegal trade in the species. That said, between 1982 
and 2005, items found to have been ``illegally'' imported to the United 
States from Mexico were mainly leather products (308) and shoes (419 
pairs). It is quite possible that these U.S. imports derived from legal 
operations in Mexico, but were precluded from import into the U.S. 
because of the Morelet's crocodile's endangered status under the 
Endangered Species Act.
    Considering the same caveats pertaining to WCMC data, there were 
eight records of illegal trade occurring from Guatemala (between 1989 
and 1997), mainly involving pairs of shoes (27), and one case in 
Belize, which involved the export of 31 eggs in 1995. Regarding 
Guatemala, Casta[ntilde]eda-Moya (1998) stated that illegal capture of 
the species continued in the Pet[eacute]n region in that year. However, 
he admitted that the volume of such activity had decreased compared to 
the situation 25 years before (CITES 2010a, p. 8).
    Recent data available on illegal trade in the Morelet's crocodile 
between 1975 and 2007 showed that the United States reported illegal 
imports (UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade Database 2010a). The data on illegal 
imports are based on the numbers of items that were seized and 
confiscated by law enforcement personnel in both the United States and 
in other countries. This information is not included in CITES annual 
reports for each country; the United States is the exception. The 
majority of the illegal Morelet's crocodile parts and derivatives 
confiscated upon arrival into the United States between 1975 and 2007 
came from Mexico (20 skins, 28 handbags, 243 leather items, 419 pairs 
of shoes, 3 watch straps, 9 bodies, 10 garments, 2 live animals, and 65 
small leather products). Again, these items could have come from legal 
operations in Mexico, but were a violation at the time under the Act 
due to the Morelet's crocodile's endangered status. A significantly 
smaller number of illegal items originated from Guatemala (1 skin, 2 
handbags, 1 leather item, 27 pairs of shoes, and 1 body) and Belize (31 
eggs). The majority of the illegal trade reportedly began in 1985, but 
began to decline steadily starting in 2000. Between 2005 and 2007, 
there were only a few reported illegal imports of Morelet's crocodile 
into the United States, and these were small leather products from 
Mexico (UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade Database 2010b).
    The Government of Mexico's Federal Prosecutor for Environmental 
Protection (PROFEPA) has investigated illegal trade in live animals, 
presumably for the pet trade. A potential illegal market in live 
animals is under analysis, and would be expected to involve the Mexican 
cities of Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Mexico City (Mexico 2006, p. 41). 
Illegal harvest or killing of individuals perceived as threats to 
humans or livestock cannot be completely precluded, but enforcement of 
controls on domestic and international trade severely limit any 
commercial incentives. PROFEPA performs inspections to prevent 
laundering of wild Morelet's crocodile specimens and other illegal 
activities. According to Mexico (Mexico 2006, pp. 39-42), 85 specimens 
were confiscated in 2003, 2 in 2004, 80 in 2005, and 14 in 2006 
(partial results). In addition, and according to Paola Mosig, Program 
officer for TRAFFIC North America in Mexico, 20 seizures with a total 
of 48 live specimens, as well as 25 belts and 2 wallets were 
confiscated in 2007 (Mosig 2008, pers. comm.). According to TRAFFIC, 
the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, these seizures are indicative of 
a strong enforcement program that deters illegal trade (Mosig 2008, 
pers. comm.).

Current Trade

    In accordance with Article II, paragraph 2(a) of CITES, and CITES 
Resolution Conf. 9.24 (Rev CoP14) Annex 1, the Government of Mexico 
submitted a proposal (CoP15 Prop. 8) to CoP15 to transfer the Morelet's 
crocodile throughout its range to Appendix II of CITES with an 
annotation requiring a zero quota for wild specimens that was further 
amended by adding the phrase, ``for commercial purposes'' (CITES 2010a, 
p. 1). The Government of Guatemala opposed Mexico's CITES proposal as 
it pertains to the species in Guatemala, based on the limited knowledge 
of the population and population trends in Guatemala; the threats to 
the species from deforestation and pollution in Guatemala; and the 
possibilities of illegal, cross-border trade taking place from 
Guatemala to Mexico. As a result, the parties to CITES agreed that 
Morelet's crocodiles in Mexico and Belize should be transferred to 
CITES Appendix II but that Morelet's

[[Page 30832]]

crocodiles in Guatemala remain in CITES Appendix I (CITES 2010b, p. 2). 
The change in CITES status for Morelet's crocodiles in Mexico and 
Belize became effective on June 23, 2010. Because of the zero quota 
annotation, transferring the Morelet's crocodile to CITES Appendix II 
precludes the trade of wild specimens for commercial purposes and 
therefore should not create additional pressure on wild populations in 
any of the range states, as long as enforcement remains effective. 
Consequently, international commercial trade in Morelet's crocodiles 
under CITES is currently limited to individuals from sources other than 
wild populations. However, once the Appendix-II listing went into 
effect for Morelet's crocodiles in Mexico and Belize, international 
trade of Morelet's crocodiles in Mexico and Belize under CITES was no 
longer limited to facilities that are registered with the CITES 
Secretariat pursuant to the resolution on registration of operations 
that breed Appendix-I animal species for commercial purposes 
(Resolution Conf. 12.10 (Rev. CoP15)).
    According to Mexico's 2010 CITES proposal, the current level of 
international trade in the Morelet's crocodile is around 8,600 
individuals in 10 years (an average of 860 individuals per year). The 
Morelet's crocodile represents only a small fraction of the global 
trade in crocodilians, far behind the market leaders: brown spectacled 
caiman (Caiman crocodilus fuscus), American alligator (Alligator 
mississippiensis), and Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus). Current 
trends in international trade do not indicate a threat to the Morelet's 
crocodile in the wild (CITES 2010a, p. 8). In addition, the Government 
of Mexico's proposal to move the Morelet's crocodile to CITES Appendix 
II allows only individuals from sources other than wild populations to 
be exported, and this provision remains in effect with the zero quota 
for wild specimens traded for commercial purposes. The risk of 
laundering of wild specimens through farms is very low, because the 
quality of skins produced in captivity is much higher than wild-caught 
skins, and demand in international trade focuses on high-quality skins 
(CITES 2010a, pp. 8, 23). It should be noted that there are a number of 
CITES-recognized production methods that are not ``wild'' and not 
``bred in captivity.'' Mexico or any other country is free to propose a 
change to the annotation at the next CoP removing this limitation. 
However, there is no indication at this time that a change is imminent.
    To see if our results would be comparable to Mexico's assessment, 
we queried the UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade Database for the number of 
Morelet's crocodile skins legally exported between 1998 and 2008, and 
found similar results for the current level of legal trade cited above 
by the Government of Mexico. According to the UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade 
Database, Mexico exported 8,780 skins between 1998 and 2008, an average 
of 878 skins per year (UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade Database 2010b). Two of 
the previously CITES-registered captive-breeding operations in Mexico 
have the potential to produce 2,500 skins per year for international 
trade (CITES 2010a, Annex 3, p. 24), which is more than adequate to 
meet the current demand for legal trade of fewer than 900 skins per 
year. Now that this rule is final, Morelet's crocodile products may be 
imported into the United States and the demand for international trade 
may increase. However, we do not believe this potential increase in 
international trade is likely to threaten or endanger wild Morelet's 
crocodiles due to the adequate supply of captive-bred individuals in 
Mexico available for legal international commercial trade under CITES.
    Besides CITES and the Act, no other international measures control 
the cross-border movement of the Morelet's crocodile (CITES 2010a, p. 
10). When this final rule is effective, (see DATES above), the 
prohibitions of the Act are removed, and Morelet's crocodile parts and 
products may be imported into the United States for commercial 
purposes, provided they do not originate in Guatemala. However, cross-
border movement of the Morelet's crocodile throughout its range will 
still be regulated through CITES (Appendix II for Mexico and Belize; 
Appendix I in Guatemala).

Subsistence Harvest

    The overharvest for commercial purposes, other than subsistence 
harvest, was the primary reason for the Morelet's crocodile listing 
under the Act and under CITES. Although subsistence harvest has 
historically had an impact on some local populations of Morelet's 
crocodiles, these impacts have diminished over time and do not 
currently have a significant impact on the species as a whole.
    Indigenous cultures in Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala have a long 
history of using the Morelet's crocodile for subsistence and cultural 
purposes (Maimone Celorio et al. 2006, pp. 40-43; Zamudio 2006, pp. 5-
8; M[eacute]ndez-Cabrera and Montiel 2007, p. 132). Historically, the 
Maya Indians in Mexico consumed small quantities of the eggs and meat 
of the Morelet's crocodile (Maimone Celorio et al. 2006, pp. 40-43; 
Zamudio 2006, pp. 5-8; M[eacute]ndez-Cabrera and Montiel 2007, p. 132). 
Hunting and harvest techniques were based on traditional knowledge by 
these people of the behavior and ecology of the Morelet's crocodile 
(Cede[ntilde]o-V[aacute]zquez and Zamudio Acedo 2005, pp. 8-9). More 
recently (1965-1980), and in response to a demand by outside buyers and 
businessmen, Maya hunters harvested large quantities of hides for 
commercial purposes, but that activity now has largely been 
discontinued (Zamudio et al. 2004, p. 344).
    Indigenous and nonindigenous people in Belize, generally poor 
farmers, also engaged in large-scale, commercial harvest of hides 
during the previous century, but that practice was primarily based on 
economic instead of cultural reasons (Hope and Abercrombie 1986, p. 
146). Abercrombie et al. (1982, p. 19) made a distinction between 
master hunters in Belize, generally older men who made extensive forays 
into the forest in search of specific game species, and part-time 
hunters, generally younger men who made short-term, opportunistic 
outings and often harvested Morelet's crocodiles. Among other uses, the 
Morelet's crocodile also has important roles in indigenous art, 
medicine, and religion (Stocker and Armsey, 1980, p. 740; Cupul-
Maga[ntilde]a 2003, pp. 45-48), and is used locally for handicrafts, 
jewelry, decorations, and curios (BERDS 2005a, p. 1). Meerman et al. 
(2003a, p. 49) noted a relative scarcity of fish and fish predators 
such as crocodiles in the Sarstoon Temash National Park in Belize. They 
suspected that fish populations are depressed, and that over-fishing by 
humans must play a role. People engaged in fishing along the Upper 
Temash River also annually collect Morelet's crocodile eggs from nests 
located along water channels for human consumption. In some years, one 
or more nests escape discovery, so the eggs are not collected. As a 
result, baby crocodiles are subsequently seen that year. Heavy fishing 
also reduces the potential prey base for the Morelet's crocodile. The 
heavy predation on eggs together with the depletion of the Morelet's 
crocodile's prey base may be responsible for the low crocodile count 
along the river (Meerman et al. 2003a, pp. 42, 45).
    Casta[ntilde]eda Moya (1998a, p. 521; 1998b, p. 13) listed illegal 
hunting as a threat to Morelet's crocodile in the Pet[eacute]n region 
of Guatemala, but did not provide a numerical estimate of the

[[Page 30833]]

take. ARCAS, an animal welfare group in Guatemala, reported the rescue 
or recovery of 49 live individuals (about 8 per year), most likely from 
pet dealers or private individuals, during the period 2002-2007 (ARCAS 
2002, p. 3; 2003, p. 2; 2004, p. 2; 2005, p. 2; 2006, p. 3; 2007, p. 
3). We do not have any information describing the effect of these 
threats on the status of wild populations in Guatemala.
    Although subsistence harvest continues to affect negatively some 
local populations of the Morelet's crocodile, the impacts appear to be 
very small. We have no evidence that subsistence harvest is currently 
or anticipated to significantly affect the Morelet's crocodile 
throughout its range. The current rangewide distribution of the 
Morelet's crocodile closely mirrors the historical rangewide 
distribution, with a total population size of approximately 19,400 
adults in the three range countries.

Scientific Research

    Scientific research in and of itself also constitutes a use of the 
Morelet's crocodile. Research in the three range countries has mainly 
focused on field surveys for the occurrence of the species, relative to 
abundance and habitat quality, which do not require removal of 
specimens. Research protocols followed so far have been those accepted 
worldwide and do not involve significant alteration of habitat or 
behavior (CITES 2010a, p. 7). Several scientific research projects on 
the Morelet's crocodile have focused on field surveys that involve 
capture, handling, or invasive techniques to identify, for example, the 
species, sex, or size class of the specimen, as well as to collect 
biological specimens or to attach an identification tag. If conducted 
according to standard protocols, these physical activities pose little 
risk of injury or disturbance to the subject crocodiles. Several 
studies have also entailed, for example, night surveys using bright 
spotlights (Casta[ntilde]eda Moya et al. 2000, p. 62), stomach flushing 
(Platt et al. 2006, p. 282), collection of small blood samples (Dever 
et al. 2002, p. 1079), or the gathering of nonviable eggs from nests 
for contaminants analyses (Rainwater et al. 2002a, p. 320). None of 
these studies has cited any negative effects due to handling or 
observation on the Morelet's crocodile populations.
    All three range countries regulate scientific research and 
collection. According to the UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade Database, 3,124 
specimens were exported for scientific purposes from Mexico to the 
United States. From an administrative standpoint, a permit at the state 
or Federal level regulates the collection of biological samples for 
scientific purposes in Mexico. In Mexico, the Mexican Endangered 
Species List (NOM-126-SEMARNAT-2000) regulates the collection of 
biological samples from wild species for scientific use. In addition, 
the Governments of Belize and Guatemala regulate scientific collection 
and research. In Belize, this type of export is subject to strict 
protocols and provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act (CITES 2010a, 
p. 7).
    With the Appendix-II designation for Morelet's crocodiles in Mexico 
and Belize, individuals or institutions wishing to import scientific 
samples originating from those countries will no longer be required to 
obtain a CITES import permit. However, the CITES import permit 
requirement will still be in effect for Guatemala, and CITES export 
permits or re-export certificates, regardless of the country of origin, 
will be required. The elimination of import permits, while continuing 
the CITES requirement for export permits and re-export certificates, 
may result in additional scientific collecting and research to benefit 
the species while ensuring that adequate protections for the species 
remain in place (see the Factor D section, Inadequacy of Existing 
Regulatory Mechanisms, below).
    In conclusion, we are not aware of any evidence that utilization of 
the Morelet's crocodile for scientific research purposes poses anything 
more than a low risk to the subject individuals; furthermore, risks at 
the population level are probably negligible. To the contrary, these 
studies (surveys and sampling) provide useful information essential to 
monitoring the status and continued health of individuals as well as 
populations. These studies also allow ecotourists in these countries to 
work with the scientific community in the collection of Morelet's 
crocodile data (Volunteers for International Partnership 2009, pp. 1-
4.) This provides ecotourists with an opportunity to observe the 
Morelet's crocodile in its native habitat and to gain firsthand 
knowledge about the conservation of the species.

Ranching

    Although the Belize-Guatemala-Mexico Tri-national Strategy for the 
Conservation and Sustainable Use of Morelet's Crocodile (see the Post 
Delisting Monitoring section, below) includes long-term plans for 
ranching, none of the range countries have given any indication they 
plan to ranch Morelet's crocodiles within the foreseeable future.

Summary of Factor B

    While uncontrolled commercial harvests nearly extirpated the 
Morelet's crocodile, the species has largely recovered because of being 
protected under CITES and the Act in the early 1970s, as well as the 
implementation of CITES trade controls by all three range countries. 
All of the range countries currently continue to prohibit harvest of 
wild Morelet's crocodiles.
    Illegal international and domestic trade still occurs, but levels 
remain low. Any incidence of illegal killing that may have occurred has 
not prevented the observed population increase of the species. The 
potential remains for illegal cross-border trade, as well as the 
laundering of wild specimens through existing captive-breeding 
operations in Mexico, but enforcement in Mexico is relatively strict. 
Given the increased effectiveness of law enforcement personnel with 
regard to the implementation of CITES, the increased supply of captive-
bred Morelet's crocodiles in Mexico that are now available for 
commercial trade as a result of the Morelet's crocodile's transfer to 
CITES Appendix II, and the increasing awareness of these regulations by 
the public, we anticipate that illegal trade in wild Morelet's 
crocodiles will decrease in the majority of the species' range in the 
foreseeable future.
    The Government of Mexico's Federal Prosecutor for Environmental 
Protection (PROFEPA) performs inspections to prevent laundering of wild 
Morelet's crocodile specimens and other illegal activities. In Belize, 
the importation and exportation of wildlife requires a permit and is 
subject to strict protocols and provisions of the Wildlife Protection 
Act; hunting of scheduled species for scientific or educational 
purposes in Belize also requires a permit. There was a declining trend 
in seizures of illegal specimens and products from 1998-2007. According 
to TRAFFIC, these seizures are indicative of a strong enforcement 
program that deters illegal trade (Mosig 2008, pers. comm.).
    Other uses such as scientific research are either benign or involve 
relatively small numbers of Morelet's crocodiles. In addition, and 
given the steps that the Government of Mexico is taking internally to 
promote the sustainable commercial use of Morelet's crocodiles, we 
anticipate that commercial uses will increase in the foreseeable 
future, especially in Mexico, but that captive-bred specimens will be 
used instead of wild individuals.

[[Page 30834]]

    In conclusion, we find that the overutilization for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes is not a significant 
factor affecting the Morelet's crocodile throughout its range, both now 
and for the foreseeable future.

Factor C. Disease or Predation

    Inter-specific interactions, namely disease and predation, can have 
significant impacts on the conservation status of a species. At the 
time CONABIO petitioned us to delist the Morelet's crocodile, disease 
was not considered a significant conservation threat to the Morelet's 
crocodile. However, the West Nile Virus (WNV) has been detected in 
several Mexican populations of the Morelet's crocodile. According to 
Farf[aacute]n-Ale et al. (2006, pp. 910-911), six specimens tested 
negative to the WNV at the M[eacute]rida Zoo, Yucatan State, Mexico, 
during 2003-2004, while six of seven specimens tested positive to the 
WNV at Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche State, Mexico, in 2004. All 
crocodiles, including those not sampled, showed no signs of illness at 
the time of the testing or during the 3 months that followed 
(Farf[aacute]n-Ale et al. (2006, p. 911).
    In a separate survey conducted during May-October 2005, Hidalgo-
Mart[iacute]nez et al. (2008, p. 80) detected the WNV in six of seven 
Morelet's crocodiles at Zool[oacute]gico La Venta, Villahermosa, 
Tabasco State, Mexico. All animals were healthy at the time of serum 
collection, and none had a history of WNV-like illness. The presence of 
WNV antibodies in animals from those zoos demonstrated the presence of 
WNV in those regions and indicated a potential risk of infection in 
animals. The magnitude of that potential risk, however, has not been 
determined. West Nile Virus was responsible for a significant number of 
deaths of farmed American alligators in the U.S. State of Georgia 
during separate outbreaks in 2001 and 2002 (Farf[aacute]n-Ale et al. 
2006, p. 908). However, we do not have any information to indicate that 
WNV causes illness in the Morelet's crocodile. The sample sizes in the 
above studies on Morelet's crocodile were small; much larger studies 
are needed. However, the best available information does not suggest 
that WNV is a threat or likely to become a threat.
    Predation on Morelet's crocodile eggs and juveniles is a common 
natural phenomenon, posing no risk to healthy populations. They are 
preyed upon more frequently at the juvenile stage by many birds and 
medium-sized mammals (CITES 2010a, p. 4). Larger juveniles and 
subadults are less susceptible than small juveniles are to predation, 
and only large carnivores such as jaguars (Panthera onca) (Navarro 
Serment 2004, p. 57) pose a risk to adult crocodiles. Larger Morelet's 
crocodiles may prey upon the juveniles of their species. However, this 
tends to act as an early factor promoting population regulation and 
adult spacing. Aggressive interactions among adults seem to be reduced 
by this mechanism, especially in populations with too many adults. In 
populations with a steady state of age distribution, cannibalism 
usually remains at a minimum (CONABIO 2005, p. 29). We are unaware of 
any unnatural rates of predation affecting any age class of Morelet's 
crocodile, and we have no indication that predation will exacerbate 
other threats to the species in the future.
    Other interspecific interactions can also affect the conservation 
status of a species. The Morelet's crocodile and the American crocodile 
co-occur and may compete with each other for resources along the 
freshwater-saltwater interface in coastal Mexico and Belize. Platt and 
Thorbjarnarson (2000a, p. 16; 2000b, pp. 24-26) reported relatively 
higher frequency of encounter rates for the Morelet's crocodile at 
alluvial and nonalluvial lagoons, mangrove forest, and rivers and 
creeks, collectively characterized as inland sites, while the American 
crocodile was relatively more abundant in offshore cays and the 
Turneffe Atoll. These differences were attributed to the smaller body 
size of the Morelet's crocodile, as well as past exploitation patterns 
by hunters and subsequent niche expansion by this species (Platt and 
Thorbjarnarson 2000b, p. 26). There was no indication, however, that 
interspecific competition between the Morelet's and the American 
crocodiles was a serious conservation problem.
    Parasites have been also reported for the Morelet's crocodile, but 
have not been identified as a conservation threat. In Mexico, 
trematodes (parasitic flatworms commonly called flukes) and nematodes 
(unsegmented worms commonly called roundworms) have been reported 
(Moravec and Vargas-V[aacute]zquez 1998, p. 499; Moravec 2001, p. 47) 
from the Yucatan Peninsula, but health problems with the crocodile 
hosts were not noted. Rainwater et al. (2001a, p. 836) reported ticks 
(Amblyomma dissimile and Amblyomma sp.), but noted that parasitism by 
ticks on the Morelet's crocodile was rare in Belize and elsewhere.
    Padilla Paz (2008, p. vi) characterized hematology, body index, and 
external injuries for 103 Morelet's crocodiles from the northern 
wetlands of Campeche State, Mexico. These variables were used to 
characterize the health of the animals. Captive Morelet's crocodiles 
evaluated for that study presented significantly more injuries than did 
wild individuals. Parasitism with nematodes (Paratrichosoma recurvum) 
was greater in wild crocodiles than in captive individuals. No serious 
health issues were identified in individuals in either group (Padilla 
Paz 2008, pp. 67-68).
    Individual Morelet's crocodiles can also have physical issues that 
can affect their well-being. Rainwater et al. (2001b, pp. 125-127) 
reported 2 individuals among 642 Morelet's crocodiles captured in 
Belize with a missing forelimb. Known in the technical literature as 
ectromelia, this condition was probably the result of congenital 
defects and not due to an injury. Both individuals otherwise appeared 
to be in good condition.

Summary of Factor C

    While the full impact of WNV on the Morelet's crocodile has yet to 
be determined, there is no indication at present that WNV poses a 
threat to the species, and other interspecific interactions do not 
appear to be adversely affecting the Morelet's crocodile. In 
conclusion, we find that neither disease nor predation is a significant 
factor affecting the Morelet's crocodile throughout its range, both now 
and for the foreseeable future.

Factor D. Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

CITES

    CITES (the Convention, or Treaty) is an international agreement 
between member governments to ensure that the international trade in 
plants and wildlife does not threaten the species' survival. It 
provides varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of 
animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, parts, 
or products. Countries that have agreed to be bound by the Convention 
(that have ``joined'' CITES) are known as Parties. Although CITES is 
legally binding on the Parties, it does not take the place of national 
laws. Rather, it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, 
which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is 
implemented at the national level. For many years, CITES has been among 
the international conservation agreements with the largest membership, 
with now 175 Parties (http://www.cites.org).

[[Page 30835]]

    CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of 
selected species to certain controls. Trade includes any movement into 
or out of a country and is not limited to commercial movement. All 
import, export, re-export, and ``introduction from the sea'' of species 
covered by the Convention have to be authorized through a permitting 
system. The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, 
according to the degree of protection they need (CITES 2009c).
    Appendix I include species threatened with extinction that are or 
may be affected by trade. Trade in specimens of these species is 
permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Appendix II includes 
species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade 
must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with 
their survival. Appendix III includes species that have been 
unilaterally listed by a Party to assist in the implementation of the 
listing Party's national legislation to conserve and monitor trade in 
the listed species. The Conference of the Parties (CoP), which is the 
decision-making body of the Convention and comprises all its member 
countries, has agreed on a set of biological and trade criteria to help 
determine whether a species should be included in Appendices I or II. 
As Appendix-III listings are a unilateral decision, Parties do not need 
to abide by the same biological and trade criteria adopted by the 
Parties. At each regular meeting of the CoP, Parties submit proposals 
based on those criteria to amend these two Appendices to add, remove, 
or reclassify species (such as the Government of Mexico's 2010 proposal 
to transfer the Morelet's crocodile from Appendix I to Appendix II). 
Parties discuss these amendment proposals during the CoP, and then they 
are submitted for adoption by the Parties (http://www.cites.org).
    A specimen of a CITES-listed species may be imported into or 
exported (or re-exported) from a Party only if the appropriate permit 
or certificate has been obtained prior to the international trade and 
presented for clearance at the port of entry or exit.

Regulation of Trade in Appendix-I Specimens

    Both an export permit or re-export certificate must be issued by 
the country of export and an import permit from the country of import 
must be obtained prior to international trade for Appendix-I species. 
An export permit may only be issued if: (1) The country of export 
determines that the export will not be detrimental to the survival of 
the species; (2) the specimen was legally obtained according to the 
animal and plant protection laws in the country of export; (3) live 
animals or plants are prepared and shipped for export to minimize any 
risk of injury, damage to health, or cruel treatment; and (4) an import 
permit has been granted by the importing country. Likewise, the 
requirements for a re-export certificate are that the country of re-
export determines: (1) That the specimen was imported into their 
country in accordance with CITES; (2) that live animals or plants are 
prepared and shipped for re-export to minimize any risk of injury, 
damage to health, or cruel treatment; and (3) that an import permit has 
been granted.
    Issuance of import permits for Appendix-I species will also need a 
determination from the country of import that the import will not be 
for purposes that are detrimental to the survival of the species, the 
proposed recipient of live animals or plants is suitably equipped to 
house and care for them, and the purpose of the import is not for 
primarily commercial purposes. Thus, with few exceptions, Appendix-I 
species cannot be traded for commercial purposes.

Regulation of Trade in Appendix-II Specimens

    In contrast to the trade requirements for an Appendix-I species, 
CITES does not require an import permit from the destination country as 
a condition for the export and re-export of an Appendix-II species, 
unless it is required by the destination country's national law. 
However, an export permit or re-export certificate is required from the 
exporting country prior to the international trade taking place. An 
export permit may only be issued for Appendix-II species if the country 
of export determines that: (1) The export will not be detrimental to 
the survival of the species; (2) the specimen was legally obtained 
according to the animal and plant protection laws in the country of 
export; and (3) live animals or plants are prepared and shipped for 
export to minimize any risk of injury, damage to health, or cruel 
treatment.
    A re-export certificate may only be issued for Appendix-II species 
if the country of re-export determines that: (1) The specimen was 
imported into their country in accordance with CITES and (2) live 
animals or plants are prepared and shipped for re-export to minimize 
any risk of injury, damage to health, or cruel treatment.
    Parties to CITES are required to monitor both the export permits 
granted and the actual exports for Appendix II species. If a Party 
determines that the export of an Appendix-II species should be limited 
in order to maintain that species throughout its range at a level 
consistent with its role in the ecosystems in which it occurs and well 
above the level at which the species might become eligible for 
inclusion as an Appendix-I species, then that Party must take suitable 
measures to limit the number of export permits granted for that species 
(CITES article IV, paragraph 3).

CITES Registered Captive-Breeding Operations

    Prior to the Morelet's crocodile in Mexico and Belize being 
downlisted to Appendix II, it could be treated as an Appendix-II 
species and internationally traded commercially only if the specimen 
originated from a captive-breeding operation registered with the CITES 
Secretariat in accordance with CITES Resolution Conf. 12.10 (Rev. 
CoP15) ``Guidelines for a procedure to register and monitor operations 
that breed Appendix-I animal species for commercial purposes.'' These 
captive-breeding operations may only be registered if specimens 
produced by that operation qualify as ``bred in captivity'' according 
to the provisions of Resolution Conf. 10.16 (Rev.). To qualify as bred 
in captivity, specimens must be born in a controlled environment where 
the parents mated. In addition, breeding stock must be established in 
accordance with the provisions of CITES and relevant national laws, and 
in a manner not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. 
Breeding stock must also be maintained without the introduction of 
specimens from the wild, except for the occasional addition of animals, 
eggs, or gametes meeting certain requirements. The breeding stock must 
have produced offspring of second generation (F2) in a controlled 
environment or be able to demonstrate that it is capable of reliably 
producing second-generation offspring in a controlled environment. 
Resolution Conf. 12.10 (Rev. CoP15) defines the term ``bred in 
captivity for commercial purposes'' as ``any specimen of an animal bred 
to obtain economic benefit, including profit, whether in cash or kind 
where the purpose is directed toward sale, exchange, or provision of a 
service or any other form of economic use or benefit.'' Countries 
operating CITES-registered operations must ensure that the operation, 
``will make a continuing meaningful contribution according to the 
conservation needs of the species'' (CITES 2007b, pp. 1-2). Under the 
exception in the Treaty and

[[Page 30836]]

Resolution Conf. 12.10 (Rev. CoP15), specimens of Appendix-I species 
originating from CITES-registered captive-breeding operations can be 
traded for commercial purposes, and shipments only need to be 
accompanied by an export permit issued by the exporting country. The 
importer is not required to obtain an import permit because these 
specimens are treated as CITES Appendix II. Countries that are Parties 
to CITES should restrict their imports of Appendix-I captive-bred 
specimens to those coming only from CITES-registered operations. 
Additional information on CITES-registered operations can be found on 
the CITES Web site at http://www.cites.org/eng/resources/registers.shtml.
    Prior to the downlisting of the species in Mexico and Belize, three 
CITES-registered operations for Morelet's crocodiles were located in 
Mexico. These facilities, while no longer registered with the CITES 
Secretariat, are still in operation (CITES 2010a, p. 24, Annex 3). The 
names of these operations are:
    (1) Cocodrilos Mexicanos (established in 1989; (former) 
registration number A-MX-501) in Culiacan, Sinaloa State. In 2008, this 
operation contained 28,673 captive Morelet's crocodiles for commercial 
production (CITES 2010a, p. 24, Annex 3).
    (2) Industrias Moreletii (established in 1993; (former) 
registration number A-MX-502) in Villahermosa, Tabasco State. In 2008, 
this operation contained 1,237 captive Morelet's crocodiles for 
commercial production (CITES 2010a, p. 24, Annex 3).
    (3) Cocodrilos de Chiapas (established in 1989; (former) 
registration number A-MX-503) in Tapachula, Chiapas State. In 2008, 
this operation contained six captive Morelet's crocodiles for 
exhibition purposes (CITES 2010a, p. 24, Annex 3).
    When the CITES Appendix-II designation became effective on June 23, 
2010, for Morelet's crocodiles in Mexico and Belize, commercial 
international trade in captive Morelet's crocodiles was no longer 
limited to crocodiles originating from the three operations that were 
registered with the CITES Secretariat. However, with the annotated 
listing, no export of wild-caught specimens for commercial purposes is 
allowed. Thus, any commercial export will continue to come from sources 
other than wild populations. There are currently 19 closed-cycle, 
captive-breeding operations registered with the Government of Mexico as 
UMAs for the production of Morelet's crocodile in Mexico. Under Mexican 
law, UMAs registered with the Government of Mexico must be closed-cycle 
and prove that they can produce individuals beyond the F2 generation 
(UMAs are described more fully below). Only 4 of the 19 UMAs have a 
captive population sufficiently large to support commercial trade, and 
only 2, Cocodrilos Mexicanos and Industrias Moreletii, of these 4 UMAs 
currently support international commercial trade() (CITES 2010a, Annex 
3, p. 24). Importing Morelet's crocodiles from Mexican captive-breeding 
operations no longer requires a CITES import permit because a CITES 
import permit is not required for Appendix-II species. However, a CITES 
export permit or re-export certificate is still required. Although the 
two remaining UMAs capable of supporting trade (Cacahuatal in Veracruz 
State and Punta del Este in Campeche State) currently do not contain 
enough Morelet's crocodiles to support international commercial trade, 
they do have enough potential annual production to produce enough skins 
to support local commercial trade (CITES 2010a, Annex 3, p. 24).
    Because the Morelet's crocodile in Guatemala is listed as an 
Appendix-I species under CITES, the only way that Morelet's crocodiles 
and their parts and products from Guatemala could legally be traded 
commercially in international trade is if a captive-breeding operation 
were to be registered with the CITES Secretariat. However, because 
Guatemala does not currently have any captive-breeding operations that 
are registered with the CITES Secretariat, the commercial international 
trade in Morelet's crocodile products from Guatemala remains 
restricted.
    However, under the current listing of the species under the Act, it 
remains illegal to import Morelet's crocodiles or their parts or 
products into the United States, regardless of the source, unless the 
purpose of the import is for scientific research or enhancement of 
propagation or survival of the species. When this final rule is 
effective (see DATES above), the prohibitions of the Act are removed. 
Morelet's crocodile parts and products originating from sources other 
than wild populations from Mexico and Belize may be imported into the 
United States for commercial purposes, as long as the required CITES 
export permit or re-export certificate has been granted. As discussed 
earlier, however, an export permit will not be granted unless the 
exporting country finds that the export will not be detrimental to the 
species and the specimen was lawfully acquired.

Mexico's Proposal To Transfer the Morelet's Crocodile to CITES Appendix 
II

    At the 2008 CITES Animals Committee meeting, the Government of 
Mexico submitted for comment and review a draft proposal to transfer 
Mexico's population of Morelet's crocodile from Appendix I to Appendix 
II based on Mexico's belief that the Morelet's crocodile no longer met 
the criteria for inclusion in Appendix I (CITES 2008a, pp. 1-28; CITES 
2008a, p. 32). Committee members were generally favorable of the 
proposal, but had several technical questions and suggestions. The 
Government of Mexico subsequently revised their 2008 proposal and 
formally submitted a 2010 CITES proposal for consideration at CoP15, 
held in March 2010 in Doha, Qatar (Government of Mexico 2010). The 2010 
proposal was to transfer the Morelet's crocodile throughout its range 
to Appendix II (CoP15 Prop. 8). The CITES Secretariat reviewed the 
proposal and agreed that the Morelet's crocodile no longer met the 
biological criteria for an Appendix-I species and recommended that the 
proposal be adopted.
    The Government of Mexico's 2010 CITES proposal recommended 
transferring the Morelet's crocodile from Appendix I to Appendix II 
because the species no longer met the criteria for inclusion in 
Appendix I. Under the 2010 proposal, the transfer to Appendix II 
applied to all three range countries. The 2010 proposal included an 
annotation establishing a zero quota for wild specimens. The zero quota 
would prohibit any international trade in wild specimens within the 
context of CITES, thereby limiting the trade in Morelet's crocodile and 
its products to those originating from sources other than wild 
specimens. Although the Belize-Guatemala-Mexico Tri-national Strategy 
for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Morelet's Crocodile (see 
the Post-delisting Monitoring section, below) includes long-term plans 
for ranching, none of the range countries have indicated they plan to 
ranch Morelet's crocodiles within the foreseeable future.
    The Government of Mexico consulted with the Governments of Belize 
and Guatemala on their 2010 CITES proposal. The Government of Belize 
supported the proposal, but did not provide documents to the CITES 
Secretariat to indicate their official support. According to the 
Government of Mexico's 2010 CITES proposal, the Government of Guatemala 
supported the proposal in part, but recommended transferring only the 
Mexican

[[Page 30837]]

population of Morelet's crocodile in captive-breeding operations to 
Appendix II, with a zero quota for wild specimens traded for commercial 
purposes. In a letter from Guatemala's Consejo Nacional de Areas 
Protegidas to the Ambassador of Mexico dated 5 June 2009 (CITES 2010a, 
Annex 4, p. 25), the Government of Guatemala indicated that it did not 
support the Government of Mexico's 2010 CITES proposal as written. They 
recommended verifying that moving captive Morelet's crocodiles in 
Mexico to Appendix II would not put wild Morelet's crocodiles in Mexico 
at risk. They supported Mexico's transfer of captive-bred populations 
of Morelet's crocodiles from Appendix I to Appendix II provided the 
parties ensure the following:
     They verify that wild populations of Morelet's crocodiles 
in Mexico will not be at risk as they are moved from Appendix I to II;
     If Mexico's proposal at CoP15 is approved, then measures 
should be put in place for strict monitoring and enforcement on the 
Mexico-Guatemala border;
     That the marking of live animals be done by methods that 
cannot be falsified and that skins be tagged in accordance with CITES 
to maintain chain of custody;
     That the tagging methods for Mexican populations of 
Morelet's crocodile be widely circulated to range countries and those 
countries importing parts and products as well as live specimens.
    Under Guatemala's recommended scenario, Morelet's crocodiles in 
Mexico and Belize would be in Appendix II, with a zero quota for wild 
specimens traded for commercial purposes, and all Morelet's crocodiles 
in Guatemala would remain on Appendix I (CITES 2010a, pp. 12, 25-26). 
The Appendix-II designation became effective on June 23, 2010. As a 
result, Morelet's crocodiles and their products from Mexico and Belize 
from sources other than wild populations are now allowed to enter 
international trade for commercial purposes under CITES. They are not, 
however, currently able to enter the United States market because the 
Act's prohibitions remain in effect. The international commercial trade 
in all wild Morelet's crocodiles remains restricted.
    At this time, the Government of Mexico intends to export products 
derived from Morelet's crocodiles raised in its captive-breeding 
operations that are registered with the Government of Mexico as UMAs, 
and that have a proven track record of producing offspring beyond the 
F2 generation (CITES 2008, p. 23; CITES 2010a, p. 9).
    Now that the Morelet's crocodile in Mexico and Belize is 
transferred to CITES Appendix II with an annotation providing a zero 
quota for wild specimens traded for commercial purposes, and when this 
delisting rule becomes effective (see DATES, above), live Morelet's 
crocodiles and parts and products originating from any captive-breeding 
operations in Mexico (and Belize, if any) may be imported into the 
United States. In addition, Morelet's crocodile products manufactured 
in other countries could also be re-exported into the United States if 
those skins originated in Mexico or Belize and were not derived from 
wild populations. Live Morelet's crocodiles and parts or products 
originating from Guatemala will remain in CITES Appendix I, with its 
associated trade restrictions remaining in place.

CITES National Legislation Project

    Through Resolution Conf. 8.4 (Rev. CoP15), the Parties to CITES 
have adopted a process, the National Legislation Project, to evaluate 
whether Parties have adequate domestic legislation to successfully 
implement the Treaty. In reviewing a country's national legislation, 
the Secretariat considers whether a Party's domestic laws designate the 
responsible Scientific and Management authorities, prohibit trade in 
violation of the Convention, have penalty provisions in place for 
illegal trade, and provide for seizure of specimens that were illegally 
traded or possessed.
    While both Guatemala and Mexico's legislation have been determined 
to be sufficient to properly implement the Treaty, Belize's national 
legislation was considered lacking. As part of the National Legislative 
Project, Belize has submitted a plan to revise their legislation to the 
Secretariat in March 2010, but as of the publication of this final 
rule, Belize has not officially enacted any revised legislation (CITES 
2010e). Although a trade suspension was put in place for Belize for one 
orchid species, Myrmecophila tibicinis, the suspension was in relation 
to the Review of Significant Trade in Specimens of Appendix II species 
(CITES 2010d) and not due to Belize's current legislation implementing 
CITES. After the effective date of this final rule (see DATES, above), 
CITES will continue to protect the Morelet's crocodile throughout its 
range by regulating international trade.
    All three countries also have protected-species and protected-areas 
legislation under the jurisdiction of specific ministries or 
departments. The three range countries have an extensive regulatory 
framework to control activities with respect to the Morelet's crocodile 
and its habitat. Mexico is unique among the three range countries in 
that the Government of Mexico also has legislation regulating captive-
breeding operations.

Mexico

    The Government of Mexico has a strict and comprehensive legal 
framework to regulate the conservation and sustainable use of the 
Morelet's crocodile in Mexico:
    (1) Ley General de Equilibrio Ecol[oacute]gico y Protecci[oacute]n 
al Ambiente (LGEEPA; General Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental 
Protection Law)--This is the primary Mexican law for environmental 
matters and is the principal legal instrument that regulates the 
Morelet's crocodile in Mexico (CONABIO 2005, Annex 3, p. 1). Passed in 
1988, this law applies to and integrates the three levels of government 
within the context of natural resources: Federal, state, and municipal. 
With regard to trade in wildlife species, including the Morelet's 
crocodile, the LGEEPA contains the basis to regulate all activities, 
including importation, exportation, seizures, sustainable use, 
violations, fines, animal welfare, and legal possession. While 45 
articles within the Mexican LGEEPA deal with environmental 
contamination (CONABIO 2005, Annex 3, p. 1), we are not aware of any 
specific provisions or their relevance to Morelet's crocodile.
    (2) Ley General de Vida Silvestre (LGVS: General Wildlife Law)-- 
Passed in 2000, this law regulates the use, conservation, and 
management of domestic wild fauna and flora and their habitat (CONABIO 
2005, Annex 3, pp. 1-2). This law is based on the principle of 
sustainable use. Any activity with regard to wild fauna and flora must 
comply with certain requirements: The activity must be supported by an 
approved management plan; the quantity to be harvested must be less 
than natural recruitment (replacement); and the harvest must not have 
negative impacts on the wild populations, their habitat, or biological 
activities. With regard to the Morelet's crocodile, harvest of wild 
populations is not permitted, and harvest under this law would only be 
permitted for specimens obtained through closed-cycle, captive-breeding 
operations that have programs that contribute to the development of 
wild populations (CITES 2010a, p. 9).
    According to the LGVS, alien specimens or populations are those 
occurring outside their natural range

[[Page 30838]]

(such as the Morelet's crocodiles found on the Pacific coast of 
Mexico), including hybrids. Such specimens or populations can only be 
managed in captivity, and with prior approval. A management plan must 
be in place with established security and contingency measures to avoid 
any negative effects on the conservation of wild native specimens and 
populations or their habitat. LGVS establishes management, control, and 
remediation measures for individuals or populations considered harmful. 
Measures may consist of capture/collection for the development of 
recovery, restocking, and reintroduction projects; for research or 
environmental education activities; for relocation of specimens 
(subject to prior evaluation of the destination habitat and condition 
of the individuals); for elimination or eradication of individuals/
populations; or of actions or devices to keep the individuals away, 
disperse them, make access difficult, or reduce the damage they cause 
(CITES 2010a, p. 9).
    (3) Programa de Conservaci[oacute]n de la Vida Silvestre y 
Diversificaci[oacute]n Productiva en el Sector Rural (Program for 
Wildlife Conservation and Productive Diversification of the Rural 
Sector)--Launched in 2000, this program defines the conceptual, 
strategic, legal, and administrative framework that governs any 
initiative for the conservation and use of wild species (CITES 2010a, 
p. 8). The goal of this program is to establish incentives for private 
and public initiatives that favor natural resources conservation, as 
well as provide economic opportunities for private entities for the 
sustainable use of these resources (CONABIO 2005, Annex 3, pp. 2-3). 
Based on a biological evaluation of the species, this program promotes 
the use and conservation of priority species of plants and animals, 
including the establishment of wildlife production units and technical 
advisory committees such as the COMACROM (Subcomit[eacute] 
T[eacute]cnico Consultivo para la Conservaci[oacute]n, Manejo y 
Aprovechamiento Sustentable de los Crocodylia en M[eacute]xico; 
Technical Advisory Subcommittee for the Conservation, Management, and 
Sustainable Use of the Crocodilians in Mexico) in the case of the 
Morelet's crocodile. Created by the Government of Mexico in 1999, 
COMACROM includes scientists, technicians, NGOs, producers, 
authorities, and other stakeholders. It participates in meetings of the 
IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group (CSG) and contributes publications to 
the CSG (CITES 2010a, p. 8).
    (4) Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2001--Passed in 2001, 
this regulation provides legal protection to domestic endangered 
species of fauna and flora, and provides a mechanism to evaluate 
extinction risks (CONABIO 2005, Annex 3, p. 3). The M[eacute]todo de 
Evaluaci[oacute]n de Riesgo de Extinci[oacute]n de Especies Silvestres 
de M[eacute]xico (MER; Method to Evaluate Wildlife Extinction Risks in 
Mexico), one of the parts of this regulation, has four categories of 
risk: Probably extinct in the wild, in peril, threatened, and subject 
to special protection. The Morelet's crocodile is included in the 
category ``subject to special protection.'' This regulation defines the 
category ``subject to special protection'' as ``those species or 
populations that might find themselves threatened by factors that 
adversely affect their viability, thus determining the need to promote 
conservation or recovery and the recovery and conservation of 
associated species populations. (This category may include lower risk 
categories of the IUCN classification).''
    Although the Government of Mexico no longer classifies the 
Morelet's crocodile as ``endangered'' or ``threatened,'' classification 
as ``subject to special protection'' under Mexican Official Law NOM-
059-SEMARNAT-2001 allows legal protection at the national level (CITES 
2010a, p. 9). Including the Morelet's crocodile in this category allows 
the Government of Mexico to make sure it still meets the conservation 
needs of important species from both a biologically and socioeconomic 
standpoint before the species can be considered to be endangered or 
threatened. CONABIO recommended keeping the Morelet's crocodile in this 
category of ``subject to special protection'' to maintain existing 
measures of conservation, technical supervision, monitoring and 
enforcement in order to avoid the species' having a higher risk 
category in the future (CONABIO 2005, p. 4 and Annex 2, p. 5).
    (5) Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-126-SEMARNAT-2000--Passed in 2000, 
this regulation oversees scientific research and collection by 
individual domestic and foreign researchers, as well as by institutions 
(CONABIO 2005, Annex 3, p. 3). If a species is also regulated under 
CITES, the appropriate permit or certificate must be obtained under 
this regulation. Scientific research or collections involving the 
Morelet's crocodile are regulated under these provisions.
    (6) Sistema de Unidades de Manejo para la Conservaci[oacute]n de la 
Vida Silvestre (SUMA; Wildlife Conservation Management and 
Administration Unit System)--In 1997, the Government of Mexico 
established a system for registering, supervising, and enforcing UMAs 
(Unidad de Manejo y Administraci[oacute]n; Conservation Management and 
Administrative Units) for intensive reproduction of economically 
valuable natural resources, including captive farming of Morelet's 
crocodiles (CONABIO 2005, Annex 3, pp. 3-5). The goal of this 
regulation was to ensure that biodiversity conservation be considered 
within the context of the production and socioeconomic needs of the 
country. This system combined a broad range of entities or facilities 
(``units'') under a single administrative program, including zoological 
and botanical gardens, greenhouses, and animal breeding centers. 
Through these units, the Government of Mexico promotes natural 
resources uses that are responsible and planned. Extensive and 
intensive captive-breeding units for the Morelet's crocodile are 
covered under this system. In exchange for the right to harvest the 
Morelet's crocodile under controlled conditions, closed-cycle, captive-
breeding unit operators are required to develop and implement an 
approved management plan for the site, as well as to conserve the 
species' habitat and other species that use that habitat. Strict animal 
husbandry practices and welfare considerations are required under these 
plans.
    Legal registration of approved UMAs requires proof of captive 
production beyond the F2 generation (CITES 2010a, p. 9). For intensive 
UMAs, such as captive-breeding operations in Mexico, the Government of 
Mexico requires the UMAs to submit regular reports that must include 
information on births and deaths, number and identification of traded 
specimens, and management activities (CITES 2010a, p. 10).
    The Government of Mexico uses three methods to mark live Morelet's 
crocodiles registered with the Wildlife Division through the 
corresponding inventories of UMAs. The first method is interdigital 
staples on the feet. The second method is the traditional method of 
cutting notches in the tail scales and is only used by some operations 
(CITES 2010a, p. 10). These marks are registered with the Government of 
Mexico. The third method is the Universal Tagging System required by 
CITES for the export of skins (Resolution Conf. 11.12 (Rev. CoP15)), 
which consists of a plastic security tag with the UMA registration 
number, the species code, a serial number, and the year of production 
or harvest. Any application for a CITES export permit must include the 
number of the authorized specimen based on the interdigital tag and the 
skin's plastic

[[Page 30839]]

security tag, and is used to track skins and other products (CITES 
2010a, p. 10).
    Approximately 50 UMAs have been registered for rearing Morelet's 
crocodiles in Mexico since the 1980s, primarily for domestic commerce. 
Nineteen of them are still actively managing the species, and 3 were 
registered with the CITES Secretariat when the species in Mexico was 
included in Appendix I (CITES 2010a, p. 11). Only 5 of the 19 UMAs have 
the potential for annual commercial production of products made from 
Morelet's crocodile (CITES 2010a, p. 24).
    (7) Sistema Nacional de [Aacute]reas Naturales Protegidas (SINANP; 
National System of Protected Natural Areas)--Passed in 2000, this 
system is made up of parcels identified as Protected Natural Areas 
(CONABIO 2005, Annex 3, p. 5). These Protected Natural Areas are 
created by Presidential decree and the activities on them are regulated 
under the LGEEPA, which requires that the Protected Natural Areas 
receive special protection for conservation, restoration, and 
development activities. The National Commission of Natural Protected 
Areas (CONANP), a decentralized organ of the Government of Mexico's 
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), currently 
administers 173 federal natural areas representing more than 62,396,392 
ac (25,250,963 ha). These natural areas are categorized as: Biosphere 
Reserves, National Parks, Natural Monuments, Areas of Natural Resource 
Protection, Areas of Protection of Flora and Fauna, and Sanctuaries.
    These areas are protected under Mexican law because they contain 
key or representative ecosystems or species, or ecosystems or species 
that are at risk and require strict control. Many ecosystems or 
species, including the Morelet's crocodile, are protected under this 
system. According to the Government of Mexico, SINANP includes at least 
12 protected areas occupied by Morelet's crocodile, covering an 
estimated 13 percent of the species' geographic range (CONABIO 2005, p. 
30).
    (8) C[oacute]digo Penal Federal (Federal Penal Code)--The code 
contains a special section for environmental crimes (CONABIO 2005, 
Annex 3, pp. 5-6). These penalties apply to those who commit crimes 
against plants or animals, as well as to individuals who illegally use 
or commercialize regulated species without authorization. These 
penalties apply to crimes involving the Morelet's crocodile.
    In order to implement and enforce the laws and regulations 
mentioned above, SEMARNAT created the office of the Procuradur[iacute]a 
Federal de Protecci[oacute]n al Ambiente (PROFEPA; Federal Prosecutor 
for Environmental Protection) and the Programa para la 
Inspecci[oacute]n y Vigilancia en Puertos, Aeropuertos y Fronteras 
(Ports, Airports, and Borders Inspection and Enforcement Program) 
(CONABIO 2005, Annex 3, p. 6). Under this program, imports and exports 
for key products regulated by SEMARNAT are inspected at 65 points of 
entry and exit to prevent laundering. Morelet's crocodile products are 
regulated under this program. PROFEPA implements the Environmental 
Inspection Program at ports, airports, and borders, as well as the 
Wildlife Inspection Program, which monitors all stages of the use of 
wild species and ensures their protection. Inspection and enforcement 
programs make these Mexican laws and regulations more effective, 
especially at airports and border ports of entry and exit. Specific 
actions include the verification of cross-border movements in 
compliance with CITES and other international agreements in 
coordination with customs authorities; inspection of areas of wildlife 
harvest, stockpiling, distribution, and sale; surveillance of areas of 
wildlife distribution and harvest; and special operations in areas of 
wildlife harvest, stockpiling, distribution and sale, in coordination 
with public law enforcement and judicial authorities (Govt. of Mexico 
2010, p. 11). Mexico has implemented several programs to prevent and 
combat illegal harvest, including the System of Wildlife Management 
Units (SUMA) which is based on six key elements: (1) Registration with 
the Wildlife Division (DGVS Direcci[oacute]n General de Vida 
Silvestre--SEMARNAT, CITES Management Authority); (2) proper habitat 
management; (3) monitoring of wild populations of the species 
harvested; (4) controlled harvest (including periodic reports and 
inventories on each UMA); (5) management plan approved and registered 
with the Wildlife Division; and (6) certificate of production and 
market/tagging methods. SEMARNAT conducts random inspections of UMAs 
and, if any issues are detected in the management plan, carries out 
population studies, including sampling activities and species 
inventories, and producing periodic reports on these findings (CITES 
2010a, p. 10).
    We do not have any information on whether the Mexican legal 
framework specifically authorizes subsistence hunting or cultural use 
of the Morelet's crocodile, or on the current level of enforcement, or 
whether the enforcement is considered adequate.

Belize

    The Government of Belize also has a legal framework that regulates 
the conservation and sustainable use of the Morelet's crocodile, along 
with other species of birds, mammals, and reptiles (collectively known 
as Scheduled species). In general terms, the Wildlife Protection Act 
prohibits illegal harvest and export in Belize (Government of Belize 
2000 pp. 7-9). The Forestry Department, within the Ministry of Natural 
Resources and the Environment, is the relevant government agency with 
respect to the Morelet's crocodile. Under this legislation, the Game 
Warden controls hunting of these species. Certain activities are 
prohibited, and a license is required. For example, hunting of the 
Morelet's crocodile is prohibited. Importation and exportation of 
wildlife is subject to strict protocols and provisions of the Wildlife 
Protection Act and requires a permit. Hunting of certain species for 
scientific or educational purposes also requires a permit. The 
legislation also identifies offenses and penalties.
    In addition to the Wildlife Protection Act, the Government of 
Belize is in the process of developing and implementing a National List 
of Critical Species (Meerman 2005a, pp. 1-8; Meerman 2005b, p. 38). 
This list is based, in part, on the procedures used by IUCN Red List of 
Threatened Animals (see IUCN 2001, version 3.1, 35 pp.). Within the 
context of the Belize Protected Areas Policy and System Plan, this list 
will serve as a basis for the Belize Red Data List. According to the 
2005 list (Meerman 2005a, p. 8), the Morelet's crocodile is categorized 
as ``CD'' (Conservation Dependent) in Belize due to the following 
factors: small range, hunted, economic importance, charismatic species 
drawing national and international attention, and persecuted as 
perceived pest. Under the 2005 list, Conservation Dependent species are 
taxa that are the focus of a continuing taxon-specific or habitat-
specific conservation program for the taxon in question, the cessation 
of which would result in the taxon qualifying for one of the threatened 
categories on the list within 5 years (Meerman 2005a, p. 3).
    These laws and regulations provide legal protection to the 
Morelet's crocodile in Belize. We have no information on whether the 
Wildlife Protection Act is sufficiently enforced. The CITES Legislation 
Project (CITES 2010e) concluded that Belize's national

[[Page 30840]]

legislation does not meet any of the requirements for implementing 
CITES. However, Belize has submitted a plan and draft legislation to 
CITES as of March 2010, but has not officially enacted the legislation. 
In spite of this assessment by CITES, trade data seem to indicate the 
threat of unregulated trade from Belize is minimal.

Guatemala

    The Government of Guatemala also has a legal framework that 
regulates the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, 
including the Morelet's crocodile (IIA URL FCAA IARNA 2003, pp. 67-69; 
IARNA URL IIA 2006, pp. 104-107; Rep[uacute]blica de Guatemala 2007, 
pp. 3-4, 31). In general terms, and based on our review of other 
materials, natural resources management is under the jurisdiction of 
the Ministerio de Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Ministry of the 
Environment and Natural Resources; USAID 2002, pp. 44-45; 
Rep[uacute]blica de Guatemala 2007, pp. 3-4, 9). The main legislation 
in this regard is Decreto N[uacute]mero 4-89 (Ley de [Aacute]reas 
Protegidas, Gobierno de Guatemala 1989, pp. 1-24; Birner et al. 2005, 
p. 290; Law of Protected Areas and Amendments/Revisions). This decree 
established the Comisi[oacute]n Nacional de [Aacute]reas Protegidas 
(CONAP; National Commission on Protected Areas). CONAP has been tasked 
to run the Sistema Nacional de [Aacute]reas Protegidas (SIGAP; National 
System of Protected Areas; IARNA URL IIA 2006, pp. 104-107). In 
Guatemala, the Morelet's crocodile is included in the Endangered 
Species List (Resolution No. ALC/032-99 of CONAP) in Category 2, 
``Seriously Endangered,'' which includes species that are endangered 
because of habitat loss, trade, the very small size of their 
populations, and/or endemism with limited distribution (CITES 2010a, p. 
9).
    In the past, threats to the Morelet's crocodile and its habitat in 
Guatemala, compounded with the lack of funding and personnel, made it 
difficult for the Government of Guatemala to adequately enforce these 
laws and regulations. Ongoing conservation actions were often 
overwhelmed by slow economic development, high levels of poverty, 
unequal land distribution, a highly segmented society, and the effects 
of more than 3 decades of civil war (Birner et al. 2005, pp. 285, 292). 
In 2003, Laguna del Tigre National Park was considered by ParkWatch as 
critically threatened due to drug trade, land grabs, the presence of 
human settlements, expanding agriculture and cattle ranching, poaching, 
forest fires, the oil industry, and an almost complete lack of 
institutional control over the area (ParksWatch 2003, pp. 1, 11). 
However, in 2004, ParksWatch stated that the staff at Laguna del Tigre 
had doubled in size since their 2003 report (ParksWatch 2004, p, 30.) 
Seventy-three park rangers, 10 archeological site guards, and 96 Army 
personnel were hired to staff the park, and since the increase in 
staffing, both the park and the biotope are ``constantly patrolled.'' 
In addition, the Wildlife Conservation Society and USAID continued its 
``Biodiversity Conservation at a Landscape Scale'' program and have 
provided a comprehensive plan with specific goals to preserve and 
protect wildlife in the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) in Guatemala 
through conserving wildlife species and their habitat, while 
maintaining the economic productivity of renewable natural resources. 
They are fulfilling these goals by establishing specific parameters: 
``to develop adaptive and participatory strategy to reduce threats to 
wildlife in the MBR; to develop, implement, and monitor sustainable 
mechanisms to reduce threats to wildlife and ecosystems across the MBR 
landscape; to learn and teach best management practices for the 
conservation of the MBR and beyond; and to guide, design, and test 
wildlife-focused planning'' (WCS 2008, p. 3). For the past 9 years, the 
WCS has been conducting over-flights of Laguna del Tigre National Park 
with the Guatemalan National Park Service and LightHawk, a volunteer-
based environmental aviation organization, and has used that 
information to identify illegal colonization, resulting in successfully 
removing illegal squatters (80+ families) from the area. In addition, 
over-flights revealed marijuana clearings on the eastern-most port of 
Mirador-R[iacute]o Azule National Park in 2007. WCS over-flights helped 
to monitor fires, locate illegal settlements, and notify the national 
and provincial government as well as the national media of illegal 
activities. As a result, the presence of fires in Laguna del Tigre 
National Park has been reduced by 90 percent. In addition, WCS has 
taken an active role in educating locals and concessionaires on best 
management practices for sustainable use of forest products (WCS 10 
year report, no date given, p. 6).
    In August 2010, the president of Guatemala announced that he was 
deploying 250 soldiers to recover fully all the protected zones of El 
Pet[eacute]n in the Laguna del Tigre section of the MBR. This ``Green 
Battalion'' was deployed specifically to protect the Laguna del Tigre 
National Park and work jointly with the National Civil Police and the 
Attorney General's Office to combat drug trafficking and the illegal 
harvest of natural resources and archaeological sites of that region of 
the MBR (Latin American Herald Tribune, December 6, 2010).
    The Government of Guatemala is also participating in the Tri-
national Strategy (see the Post-delisting Monitoring section below) for 
Morelet's crocodile, wherein specific actions directed toward the 
Morelet's crocodile are defined. Conservation actions in Guatemala are 
being developed and implemented within the context of the Convention on 
Biological Diversity and the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action 
Plan (Birner et al. 2005, p. 285). Many outstanding accomplishments 
have been achieved in Guatemala in terms of biodiversity conservation 
(IARNA URL IIA 2006, p. 22), and the Guatemalan government seems 
committed to ensuring that environmental management and enforcement 
efforts continue.

Summary of Factor D

    Based on the fact that all three range countries are Parties to 
CITES, have protected-species and protected-areas legislation, 
implemented that legislation, and enforce relevant laws, the current 
regulatory mechanisms appear to be adequate to conserve the Morelet's 
crocodile in the majority of the species' range. As per the CITES 
National Legislation Project (CITES 2010e), both Guatemala and Mexico's 
legislation meet all the requirements for implementing CITES. Belize's 
national legislation was considered not to meet any of the requirements 
for implementing CITES. However, Belize has submitted a plan and draft 
legislation to CITES as of March 2010, but has not officially enacted 
the legislation. Per decisions made during CoP15, the CITES protections 
for Morelet's crocodiles in Guatemala will remain unchanged. They will 
remain protected as an Appendix-I species, with those CITES trade 
restrictions remaining in place.
    Together, Mexico and Belize contain the majority of wild 
individuals (87 percent) and the estimated potentially suitable habitat 
(81 percent) throughout the species' range. We anticipate that these 
conditions will remain essentially the same, both domestically and 
internationally, in the foreseeable future. However, we did not solely 
rely on these future measures in finding the species is no longer 
endangered or threatened.
    Existing regulatory mechanisms, including CITES and domestic 
prohibitions on harvest of wild

[[Page 30841]]

Morelet's crocodiles, have played a vital role in the resurgence of 
Morelet's crocodiles over the last 40 years. While some trade 
restrictions could be lifted in the future, particularly to allow 
increased trade in captive-bred specimens now that Morelet's crocodiles 
in Mexico and Belize have been moved to CITES Appendix II with a zero 
export quota for wild specimens traded for commercial purposes, we 
believe such lifting of restrictions would pose little risk to the 
species. All three range countries restrict the use of wild specimens, 
and the Government of Mexico has institutions with proven track records 
to administer and enforce controls on captive-breeding operations and 
laundering of illegal specimens. Should the zero export quota for wild 
specimens traded for commercial purposes be lifted, it may create 
greater enforcement challenges in all three range countries in the 
foreseeable future because the taking of wild Morelet's crocodiles 
could be authorized. If this happens, the requirements of CITES 
Appendix II will apply. The exporting country will be required to 
determine that the export is not detrimental to the survival of the 
species in the wild and specimens are legally acquired prior to issuing 
a permit authorizing the export. However, a change to the annotation 
would require approval of two-thirds of the Parties voting at a CoP and 
cannot be achieved unilaterally by any of the range countries. 
Therefore, we do not have any indication that CITES and the regulatory 
mechanisms of the range countries will be inadequate to continue to 
protect the species in the wild when this delisting rule becomes 
effective, or if ranching or wild harvest are authorized in the future.
    The reproduction and survival rates of wild Morelet's crocodiles 
are currently robust. Populations remain stable throughout most of 
their range, and have expanded their range in some areas. In 
conclusion, we find that, taken together, the currently existing 
protections described above are adequate, and they will remain adequate 
to protect the Morelet's crocodile and its habitat in the majority of 
its range now and within the foreseeable future.

Factor E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting the Continued 
Existence of the Species

Human-Crocodile Conflicts

    The Morelet's crocodile is known to attack humans. While data about 
these conflicts are limited, anecdotal reports suggest that these 
conflicts are widespread and ongoing. In a well-documented attack in 
Belize in August 2001, a Morelet's crocodile attacked a 13-year-old 
male and caused him to drown in the Belama area of Belize City (Finger 
et al. 2002, p. 198).
    More often, human-crocodile conflicts involving the Morelet's 
crocodile are more benign. In Mexico, for example, the Crocodile Museum 
(Chiapas State; about 80 cases per year) assists local officials 
through the capture, rescue, and relocation of local crocodilians (all 
three species, including the Morelet's crocodile) that are considered 
potentially dangerous or, because of their location (close proximity to 
human activities), they might be killed by local inhabitants 
(Dom[iacute]nguez-Laso 2008, p. 5). Abercrombie et al. (1982, p. 19) 
reported that the Morelet's crocodile was generally feared in Belize. 
Finger et al. (2002, p. 199) indicated that development related to 
human occupation (such as residential areas and infrastructure) in 
Morelet's crocodile habitat around Belize City was generating 
increasing numbers of human-crocodile conflicts. Windsor et al. (2002, 
p. 418) also noted that the practice of feeding the Morelet's crocodile 
by residents and tourists was becoming more common and was also 
generating increasing numbers of human-crocodile conflicts in Belize. 
According to Platt and Thorbjarnarson (2000a, p. 27), large Morelet's 
crocodiles, despite legal protections, are still perceived as threats 
to humans and livestock, and are occasionally killed near residential 
areas in Belize. While educational programs are needed for local 
residents and visitors to deter this activity, it may also be necessary 
to develop a problem crocodile removal program to resolve these 
conflicts (Windsor et al. 2002, p. 418). No information was available 
about human-crocodile conflicts in Guatemala. Although human-crocodile 
conflicts are affecting local populations of Morelet's crocodiles, and 
this is likely to continue in the foreseeable future, we do not have 
any evidence that it is currently or anticipated to be a threat to the 
species as a whole.

Environmental Contaminants

    Environmental contaminants are known to have negative impacts on 
terrestrial vertebrates (Smith et al. 2007, p. 41), including 
crocodilians (Ross 1998, p. 3). The primary routes through which 
terrestrial reptiles, including the Morelet's crocodile, are exposed to 
environmental pollutants are ingestion of contaminated prey, dermal 
contact, maternal transfer, and accumulation of chemicals into eggs 
from contaminated nesting media (Smith et al. 2007, p. 48). With regard 
to the Morelet's crocodile, organochlorine contaminants have been 
detected in the scutes (external scales) (DeBusk 2001, pp. viii-ix) and 
the chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) of hatched Morelet's crocodile eggs 
(Pepper et al. 2004, pp. 493, 495), as well as in whole contents 
analysis of nonviable crocodile eggs (Wu et al. 2000a, p. 6,416; 2000b, 
p. 671; Wu et al. 2006, p. 151).
    The most common organochlorine found in studies of Morelet's 
crocodile in Belize was DDE (dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene), 
detected in 100 percent of eggs collected by Wu et al. (2000b, p. 673) 
and 69 percent of CAMs sampled by Pepper et al. (2004, p. 495). 
Organochlorines have also been detected at additional sites throughout 
coastal Belize and the interior highlands (Meerman 2006a, p. 26; Wu et 
al. 2006, p. 153). Although exposure to organochlorines has been linked 
to adverse effects on population health of the American alligator in 
Florida (several studies cited by Wu et al. 2000b, p. 676), no 
population-level effects were detected in Belize (McMurry and Anderson 
2000, pp. 1, 4; Wu et al. 2000b, p. 676). Rainwater (2003, pp. xii, 
38), however, later suggested that some of the sites that had been 
chosen for comparative purposes in fact had similar contaminant 
profiles and that some study results suggesting no significant 
differences between sites may be equivocal.
    Reproductive impairment due to endocrine-disrupting contaminants 
has been demonstrated elsewhere in crocodilians and is suspected to 
occur with Morelet's crocodiles in Belize due to known contaminant 
levels (Selcer et al. 2006, p. 50; Rainwater et al. 2008, p. 101). 
Initial results have not documented contaminant-induced vitellogenin in 
blood plasma in the Morelet's crocodile, but this condition may occur 
in the wild in Belize; studies are ongoing (Selcer et al. 2006, p. 50; 
Rainwater et al. 2008, pp. 101, 106-107).
    Mercury was detected in nonviable Morelet's crocodile eggs 
collected from eight nests across three localities in northern Belize 
in 1995 (Rainwater et al. 2002a, p. 320; Rainwater et al. 2002b, p. 
190). While mercury was detected in all eggs sampled, the mean 
concentration per egg was among the lowest reported values for any 
crocodile species. No overt signs of mercury toxicity or evidence of a 
population decline was noted for Morelet's crocodiles at the site 
(Rainwater et al. 2002a, pp. 321-322).
    All samples for studies of organochlorine and mercury contaminants 
cited above came from Belize, and we are not aware of any

[[Page 30842]]

similar investigations elsewhere in the Morelet's crocodile range 
(Mexico or Guatemala). As reproduction and survival rates of Morelet's 
crocodiles are currently robust, we do not have any reason to believe 
that environmental contaminants are currently likely to cause the 
Morelet's crocodile to become in danger of extinction within the 
foreseeable future.
    Populations currently remain stable throughout most of the species 
range, and have even expanded their range in some areas. This provides 
empirical evidence of the species' intrinsic resilience and 
adaptability. There is no evidence that environmental contaminants 
currently pose a threat to the species. Although environmental 
contaminants may represent a potential threat, especially given the 
potential for long-term bioaccumulation of contaminants during the 
species' long reproductive life, given this species' resiliency we do 
not have any data to indicate that they are likely to become a threat 
in the foreseeable future.
    Manmade factors that could affect the continued existence of the 
Morelet's crocodile, according to CONABIO (CONABIO 2005, p. 32), were 
the construction and operation of oil extraction infrastructure and 
thermoelectric plants. The operation of chemical and manufacturing 
industries could also become a threat if potentially toxic residual 
materials are disposed of improperly. These activities, however, are 
highly regulated by the Ley General de Equilibrio Ecol[oacute]gico y 
Protecci[oacute]n al Ambiente (LGEEPA; General Ecological Equilibrium 
and Environmental Protection Law) and the Attorney General for the 
Protection of the Environment (PROFEPA). Under LGEEPA, every new 
project has to fulfill strict protocols for the assessment of 
environmental impacts before it can be approved.
    As discussed above in the Factor D., Inadequacy of Existing 
Regulatory Mechanisms, section, the Government of Guatemala opposed the 
Government of Mexico's 2010 CITES proposal based, in part, on threats 
to the species from pollution in Guatemala (CITES 2010a, p. 6). 
However, we do not have any information or data on the extent of the 
impact, if any, that pollution may have on the Morelet's crocodile in 
Guatemala.

Genetic Diversity and Integrity

    At least three factors have been identified as potential threats 
with respect to the Morelet's crocodile: (1) Genetic heterogeneity; (2) 
hybridization; and (3) male-biased sex ratios.

Genetic Heterogeneity

    Evaluation of nine microsatellite loci (highly repetitive DNA 
sequences) from Morelet's crocodiles in Belize suggested a high degree 
of genetic heterogeneity within local populations, relatively high 
levels of migration among populations, and no evidence of a major 
genetic bottleneck due to population depletion in the mid-1900s (Dever 
and Densmore 2001, pp. 543-544; Dever et al. 2002, p. 1084). Population 
bottlenecks are a period when a species population drops to such a low 
level that many genetic lineages become extinct and genetic variation 
is reduced to a few individuals, resulting in genetic homogeneity. If 
severe, it can lead to inbreeding. Endangered species that do not 
become extinct might expand their populations, but with limited genetic 
diversity, they may not be able to adapt to changing environmental 
conditions. The high degree of genetic heterogeneity found in Morelet's 
crocodiles was attributed to frequent migration by individuals among 
the several adjacent Morelet's crocodile populations. Ray et al. (2004, 
pp. 455-457) found low levels of genetic diversity in the mitochondrial 
control region of Morelet's crocodiles at 10 sites in northern Belize 
and at one site each in northern Guatemala and Mexico, but these 
results were inconsistent with a population bottleneck and may be 
typical of crocodilian populations. Other studies of the repetitive 
sequences in the mitochondrial control are ongoing in the Morelet's 
crocodile and may be a useful tool for researchers investigating 
population dynamics of this species (Ray and Densmore 2003, p. 1012).

Hybridization

    Data suggest that some hybridization between Morelet's crocodiles 
and American crocodiles has always periodically occurred in the wild in 
areas where both species are sympatric, and that the hybridization is 
more frequent than previously believed (Cede[ntilde]o-V[aacute]zquez et 
al., 2008, pp. 666-667; Rodr[iacute]guez et al. 2008, p. 678). In fact, 
Ross (2011, pers. comm.) states that ``evidence suggests that 
hybridization is a long standing, quite natural situation, and likely a 
stable hybrid zone of the sort described for many other species. While 
it is of considerable scientific and evolutionary interest, it does not 
constitute a threat to the species in its present form.''
    While the first hybrids were identified in coastal areas of eastern 
Belize, later studies also located hybrids in Mexico along the eastern 
and northern coasts of the Yucatan Peninsula (Ray et al. 2004, p. 449; 
Cede[ntilde]o-V[aacute]zquez et al. 2008, p. 661; Rodr[iacute]guez et 
al. 2008, p. 674).
    Hybridization involves several key issues. First, hybridization 
appears to be bidirectional (males of one species with females of the 
other species, and vice versa). In addition, hybrids (confirmed by 
laboratory tests) do not always exhibit physical characteristics (such 
as body size, shape, or coloration) that are a mixture of both species, 
and they are not always readily identifiable as such in the hand. 
Furthermore, F2 hybrids and backcrosses of hybrids to nonhybrids have 
been reported. These circumstances hinder the field identification of 
potential hybrids.
    Ray et al. (2004, p. 459) stated that further assessment of genetic 
contact between these two species should precede reclassification of 
Morelet's crocodile under CITES, presumably because of uncertainty 
regarding numbers of genetically pure individuals in Belize. While 
populations of both the Morelet's crocodile and the American crocodile 
suffered from the hunting pressures of the 1950s and 1960s, the 
American crocodile has been slower to recover. Indeed, Ray et al. 
(2004, p. 459) noted that hybridization likely represents a greater 
danger to the genetic integrity of the larger but rarer American 
crocodile than to the Morelet's crocodile in Belize. The Service 
believes this concern bears additional investigation, but is not 
sufficient to warrant continued endangered or threatened status under 
the Act for the Morelet's crocodile.
    One hypothetical concern about hybridization is that 
supplementation of wild Morelet's crocodile populations in Mexico with 
captive-bred crocodiles might affect the genetic integrity of wild 
populations. While analyses of captive-bred populations have not been 
published, differences in the nature and extent of genetic variation of 
these populations compared with wild populations might be expected. It 
is not clear if these differences, if they occur, would be significant 
or important from a conservation standpoint. Furthermore, this issue 
may be a moot point. Although agreements between captive-breeding 
operations and the Government of Mexico require breeders to make 
available up to 10 percent of their offspring for reintroduction to the 
wild, or as breeding stock for other crocodile farms in the country, no 
releases of captive-bred stock have occurred (Mexico 2006, p. 28). No 
releases have occurred because the current total population sizes of 
wild populations in Mexico, according to Mexican officials, are 
sufficiently large to render releases unnecessary (CITES

[[Page 30843]]

2008, p. 23). However, accidental escapes and deliberate releases of 
the Morelet's crocodile from captive-rearing units outside of the 
species' natural range have occurred in wetland habitats along the 
Pacific coast of Mexico. These wetland habitats are already occupied by 
the naturally occurring American crocodile, and interactions between 
the two crocodile species are likely (Ross 1995, p. 14). These escapes 
and releases of Morelet's crocodiles may pose risks to the genetic 
integrity of naturally occurring American crocodiles, but probably not 
to Morelet's crocodiles. The Government of Mexico is making efforts to 
diagnose potential threats to the native American crocodile caused by 
hybridization with the introduced Morelet's crocodile on the Pacific 
coast of Mexico. The goal of these efforts is to generate morphological 
and molecular identification materials and study the population 
dynamics of the American crocodile. The efforts will include monitoring 
and harvest of Morelet's crocodiles and hybrids for scientific research 
(CITES 2010a, p. 6).
    Although hybridization between American and Morelet's crocodiles 
continues to affect some local populations of the Morelet's crocodile, 
the impacts appear to be very small. We have no evidence that 
hybridization is currently or anticipated to significantly affect the 
Morelet's crocodile throughout its range.

Male-Biased Sex Ratios

    Another potential risk from supplementation of wild populations 
with captive-bred Morelet's crocodiles is that of skewed sex ratios 
(greater proportion of males in captive populations). Incubation 
temperature affects the sex ratio of crocodilian species differently 
(Escobedo-Galv[aacute]n 2006, p. 131). Like many crocodilian species, 
the Morelet's crocodile exhibits temperature-dependent sex 
determination. Incubation temperatures greater than about 93 [deg]F (34 
[deg]C) or less than 90 [deg]F (32 [deg]C) produce females, while 
temperatures between 90-93 [deg]F (32-34 [deg]C) generally produce 
males (Escobedo-Galv[aacute]n 2006, p. 133; Escobedo-Galv[aacute]n et 
al. 2008, p. 2). Some wild populations of the Morelet's crocodile in 
Belize also have greater proportions of males than females (5.3 males 
per 1 female), but seem to be healthy (Platt and Thorbjarnarson 2000a, 
p. 23). We do not have any evidence that skewed sex ratios currently 
pose a threat to the species. Although skewed sex ratios may represent 
a potential threat, especially given the potential for skewed sex 
ratios as a result of climate change, this information is not 
sufficient to be able to judge the timing of this potential, i.e., that 
it will manifest within the foreseeable future. Therefore, we do not 
have any information to indicate that it is likely to become a threat 
in the foreseeable future.

Natural Weather Events

    Natural weather can affect the Morelet's crocodile. Hurricanes or 
heavy seasonal rains, for example, may pose risks to Morelet's 
crocodile eggs located in nests along water channels. Flooding 
associated with hurricanes or rains, however, may also provide 
conservation benefits to the Morelet's crocodile by facilitating 
movements of individuals across the landscape, thereby promoting gene 
flow (CITES 2010a, p. 6). Furthermore, extended dry periods can result 
in the temporary disappearance of ephemeral water bodies, with 
concomitant increases in Morelet's crocodile densities and 
intraspecific interactions at nearby sites that still have water. There 
is no evidence, however, that natural weather conditions have been a 
problem for the Morelet's crocodile, which has adapted to these weather 
conditions. Therefore, we have no reason to believe that natural 
weather events are currently likely to cause the Morelet's crocodile to 
become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future throughout 
all or any significant portion of its range.

Climate Change

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that 
warming of the climate system is unequivocal (IPCC 2007a, p. 30) and 
sea levels are expected to rise well into the foreseeable future (Bates 
et al. 2008, pp. 20, 28-29). Numerous long-term changes have been 
observed including changes in arctic temperatures and ice, widespread 
changes in precipitation amounts, ocean salinity, wind patterns, and 
aspects of extreme weather including droughts, heavy precipitation, 
heat waves, and the intensity of tropical cyclones (IPCC 2007b, p. 7). 
Based on scenarios that do not assume explicit climate policies to 
reduce greenhouse gas emissions, global average temperature is 
projected to rise by 2-11.5 [deg]F by the end of this century (relative 
to the 1980-1999 time period) (USGCRP 2011, p. 9). Species that are 
dependent on specialized habitat types, limited in distribution, or 
occurring already at the extreme periphery of their range will be most 
susceptible to the impacts of climate change. While continued change is 
certain, the magnitude and rate of change is unknown in many cases.
    The information currently available on the effects of climate 
change and the available climate change models do not make sufficiently 
accurate estimates of location and magnitude of effects at a scale 
small enough to apply to the range of the Morelet's crocodile. We do 
not have any information on the projected impacts to the Morelet's 
crocodile because of climate change, particularly the potential impacts 
of shifting global temperatures on sex ratios. The study by Escobedo-
Galv[aacute]n et al. (2008) regarding climate change's projected 
impacts to the American crocodile illustrates the possible impacts to 
the Morelet's crocodile. This study, entitled ``Potential effects of 
climate change on the sex ratio of crocodiles'' (Escobedo-Galv[aacute]n 
et al. 2008), was presented at the February 2008 International Science 
Symposium: Climate Change and Diversity in the Americas. The study 
selected several areas in Florida and western Mexico that contain 
American crocodiles, and used the current environmental information for 
these areas to predict how increased temperatures would affect the 
potential geographical distribution and sex ratios of the species in 
Florida, the Caribbean, and Central America.
    Based on a preliminary analysis (focusing on the geographic 
distribution and sex ratios of American crocodiles in the present, 
2020, and 2050), Escobedo-Galv[aacute]n et al. (2008) postulated that 
the geographic distribution and sex ratios of American crocodile 
populations in different parts of the range would change in response to 
temperature and sea-level parameters. Crocodiles are ectothermic, 
relying on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. 
They control their body temperature by basking in the sun, or moving to 
areas with warmer or cooler air or water temperatures. Optimal growth 
in crocodilians has been found to occur around 88 [deg]F (31 [deg]C), 
with appetites and effective digestion diminishing below 84 [deg]F (29 
[deg]C) (Brien et al. 2007, p. 15). As global temperatures increase, 
areas that are currently too cool to support American and Morelet's 
crocodiles may become warm enough to support them in the future. 
According to Escobedo-Galv[aacute]n et al. 2008, increased global 
temperatures and sea level would benefit the American crocodile by 
significantly increasing its potential habitat and distribution. Their 
study predicted that the current potential distribution for the 
American crocodile would expand 69 percent in 2020, and 207 percent in 
2050. This is an 81 percent increase in potential distribution from 
2020 to 2050

[[Page 30844]]

(Escobedo-Galv[aacute]n et al. 2008, presentation, pp. 9-10).
    The study also predicted that increased global temperatures would 
have a significantly negative impact on the sex ratios of the American 
crocodile. Like many other crocodilian species, both the American and 
the Morelet's crocodile exhibit temperature-dependent sex 
determination. The macroclimate (global climate) affects the 
mesoclimate (the temperature outside of a crocodile's nest), which in 
turn affects the microclimate (the temperature inside of a crocodile's 
nest), which in turn determines the proportion of males to females 
produced in the nest (Escobedo-Galv[aacute]n et al. 2008, presentation, 
p. 4). Incubation temperatures greater than about 93 [deg]F (34 
[ordm]C) or less than 90 [deg]F (32 [ordm]C) produce females while 
temperatures between 90-93 [deg]F (32-34 [ordm]C) generally produce 
males (Escobedo-Galv[aacute]n 2006, p. 133; Escobedo-Galv[aacute]n et 
al. 2008, p. 2). Thus, the production of males is entirely dependent 
upon a sustained incubation temperature range of only 3 degrees. 
Incubation temperatures greater than 97 [deg]F (36 [deg]C) are at the 
upper end of the tolerance range for reptile eggs and result in death 
of embryos and stress to the surviving hatchlings (Escobedo-
Galv[aacute]n et al. 2008, presentation, p. 2).
    According to Escobedo-Galv[aacute]n et al. (2008), the current sex 
ratio of the American crocodile favors females (based on potential 
species distribution): 75 percent of the potential species distribution 
has fewer males than females, 15 percent has an equal number of males 
and females, and 10 percent has more males than females. The study 
predicted that by 2020, the sex ratio is expected to shift in favor of 
males due to increases in nest temperature as a result of climate 
change: 24 percent of the potential species distribution will have 
fewer males than females, 16 percent will have an equal number of males 
and females, and 60 percent will have more males than females 
(Escobedo-Galv[aacute]n et al. 2008, presentation, pp. 11-12). Under 
this scenario, the number of females produced will be reduced 
significantly by 2020, which in turn will reduce the overall total eggs 
laid in each breeding season. Of the eggs laid, more are likely to 
become males, which in turn would further reduce the number of breeding 
females produced over time. Escobedo-Galv[aacute]n et al. (2008) 
predicted that by 2050, American crocodiles would become extinct in 
Florida, the Caribbean, or Central America (Escobedo-Galv[aacute]n et 
al. 2008, presentation, p. 13).
    Although American crocodiles are found primarily in saline and 
brackish environments, they can also be found in abandoned coastal 
canals and borrow pits, and may range inland into freshwater 
environments preferred by Morelet's crocodiles, such as lakes and lower 
reaches of large rivers. American crocodiles are extremely adaptable in 
their nesting strategy, and while they mainly nest in holes, 
individuals will readily build mound nests if suitable materials are 
available. American and Morelet's crocodiles have been known to lay 
eggs within the same nest mound as conspecifics, suggesting a more 
gregarious and tolerant demeanor (Brien et al. 2007, pp. 17-18). Sea-
level rise would significantly expand the amount of inland saline and 
brackish coastal habitat available to the American crocodile, and 
correspondingly decrease the amount of inland freshwater habitat 
available to the Morelet's crocodile. The area of available land would 
also be reduced as a result of sea-level rise, further increasing 
competition between the two species for terrestrial activities such as 
nesting and basking on the shoreline.
    The study by Escobedo-Galv[aacute]n et al. (2008) did not provide 
any information or data on the effects of climate change on the 
Morelet's crocodile. Although the American crocodile and Morelet's 
crocodile have overlapping ranges, similar life-history requirements, 
and may lay eggs in the same nest, we do not have any evidence that 
climate change currently poses a threat to the Morelet's crocodile. 
Ross (2010, pers. comm.) noted that while climate change constitutes 
one of the most pressing potential threats to biodiversity, 
crocodilians seem the most adapted to be minimally impacted. 
``Crocodilians have demonstrably survived several previous periods of 
climate change comparable to current and predicted scenarios and while 
they may well change distribution and experience sex ratio and 
physiological effects, these seem well within the capacity of this 
species. They seem likely to be one of those species that will adapt to 
climate change, neither going extinct or requiring significant movement 
or mitigation.'' Thus, although climate change may represent a 
potential threat to the Morelet's crocodile, all indications are that 
it is not likely to become a threat to this species in the foreseeable 
future.

Other Potential Concerns

    Other information obtained by the Service, however, suggests that 
the construction and operation of dams to generate electricity could be 
a conservation threat to the Morelet's crocodile (for example, the 
Chalillo hydroelectric dam in Belize on the Macal River, an area 
inhabited by the Morelet's crocodile) (Environment News Service 2004, 
p. 1; Hogan 2008, p. 2). At the national level, six main environmental 
issues affecting natural resources have been identified for Belize: (1) 
High deforestation rate; (2) solid and liquid waste management issues; 
(3) rising poverty rates; (4) rapid coastal development; (5) 
ineffective institution and legal frameworks; and (6) oil discovery 
(Young 2008, p. 18).
    We do not have any information to indicate the extent of the 
impact, if any, that these environmental issues may have on the 
Morelet's crocodile in Belize. There is no evidence that these 
environmental issues in Belize currently pose a threat to the species. 
Although they may represent a potential threat, we do not have any data 
to indicate that they are likely to become a threat in the foreseeable 
future.
    There has been some information indicating that fishing nets (for 
fish and turtles) and death by drowning are threats to the Morelet's 
crocodile in Guatemala, but we do not have information regarding 
specific rates of injury or mortality (CITES 2008, p. 18). CONABIO 
(2005, p. 27) suggested that the number of crocodiles accidentally 
captured in nets in Guatemala was low, but the basis for this claim was 
unclear. Platt and Thorbjarnarson (2000b, p. 27) noted that ``a limited 
number of crocodiles'' drown in fish and turtle nets in northern Belize 
each year. There is no evidence that fishing currently poses a threat 
to the species. Although it may represent a potential threat, we do not 
have any data to indicate that it is likely to become a threat in the 
foreseeable future.

Summary of Factor E

    Few, if any, natural or manmade factors are anticipated to affect 
the continued existence of the Morelet's crocodile. While natural 
factors such as hurricanes and extended dry seasons (CONABIO 2005, p. 
32) may affect the species, we believe that the species has evolved 
with these kinds of events, and the events do not pose a threat to the 
species.
    Several phenomena are categorized here as other natural or manmade 
factors that were considered as potentially affecting the conservation 
status of the Morelet's crocodile in the foreseeable future. Our 
knowledge about these factors is incomplete and uneven among the three 
range countries. Environmental contaminants, especially DDE and 
mercury, have been widely

[[Page 30845]]

reported for Belize. To date, however, there is no evidence of negative 
effects to the Morelet's crocodile due to exposure to organochlorines 
even though these contaminants have been linked to documented adverse 
effects on population health in a similar species, the American 
alligator.
    Vitellogenin induction in males, suggesting endocrine disruption 
due to environmental contamination, is predicted in Belize, but has not 
been documented. These factors do not appear to pose a conservation 
threat to the Morelet's crocodile in Belize at this time. Information 
about environmental contaminants in Mexico and Guatemala with regard to 
the Morelet's crocodile is limited. Potential environmental contaminant 
issues with respect to the Morelet's crocodile probably are the least 
well known in Mexico, but that country has an extensive legal framework 
to resolve any problems that may develop, especially if contaminants 
also become a public health issue. We do not have any information to 
indicate that environmental contaminants pose a danger to the species 
throughout its range. Although environmental contaminants may represent 
a potential threat, especially given the potential for bioaccumulation 
of contaminants during the species' long reproductive life, we do not 
have any data to indicate that environmental contaminants are likely to 
become a threat to the species in the foreseeable future.
    Bycatch in fishing nets has been mentioned as a potential problem 
in Guatemala. In Belize, a ``limited number of crocodiles'' may die or 
be injured in nets (Platt and Thorbjarnarson 2000b, p. 27), while 
information about the potential negative effects of fishing nets on the 
Morelet's crocodile in Mexico is limited. Overall, these local impacts 
do not appear to have any significant impact on Morelet's crocodiles. 
Although bycatch in fishing nets may represent a potential threat, we 
do not have any data to indicate that it is likely to become a threat 
in the foreseeable future.
    Genetic diversity and integrity is a relatively complicated subject 
with respect to the Morelet's crocodile, and our knowledge across the 
three range countries is uneven. Studies in Belize suggest that wild 
populations in that country have a high degree of genetic diversity 
(Dever and Densmore 2001, pp. 543-544; Dever et al. 2002, p. 1084). 
Hybridization between the Morelet's crocodile and the American 
crocodile has been documented for eastern Belize and the eastern and 
northern coasts of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico (Ray et al. 2004, p. 
440; Cede[ntilde]o-V[aacute]zquez et al. 2008, p. 661; Rodriguez et al. 
2008, p. 674). The nature and extent of genetic variation of captive-
bred populations with respect to wild populations, as well as male-
biased sex ratios, are also poorly understood issues, but potentially 
important in Mexico where captive-bred individuals may eventually be 
released into the wild. There is no indication, however, that the 
Morelet's crocodile suffers from any genetic limitations throughout its 
range.
    Natural weather events do not appear to have any population-level 
impacts to the Morelet's crocodile, which has evolved to thrive in this 
climate. We also do not have any evidence that climate change poses a 
threat to the species. Although climate change may represent a 
potential threat, especially given the crocodilian requirement for 
temperature dependent sex determination, we do not have any data to 
indicate that climate change is likely to become a threat in the 
foreseeable future.
    Although some local factors continue to affect the Morelet's 
crocodile, we do not have any information to indicate that these 
factors are of sufficient magnitude to affect any population of the 
Morelet's crocodile. In conclusion, we find that other natural and 
manmade factors are not a significant factor affecting the Morelet's 
crocodile throughout its range, both now and for the foreseeable 
future.

Finding

    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data 
available and have determined that the Morelet's crocodile is no longer 
endangered or threatened throughout all of its range. When considering 
the listing status of the species, the first step in the analysis is to 
determine whether the species is in danger of extinction or likely to 
become endangered throughout all of its range. For instance, if the 
threats on a species are acting only on a portion of its range, but the 
effects of the threats are such that they do not place the entire 
species in danger of extinction or likely to become endangered, we 
would not retain the entire species on the list.
    In developing this final rule, we have carefully assessed the best 
scientific and commercial data available regarding the threats facing 
this species, as well as the ongoing conservation efforts by the three 
range countries. This information indicates that numbers of Morelet's 
crocodiles have significantly increased over the past 4 decades since 
being categorized as depleted by species experts in the 1970s. In 
Mexico and Belize, the species is broadly distributed geographically, 
essentially occupying the entire historical range, and age classes 
reflect healthy reproduction and recruitment into a wild breeding 
population of about 10,000-20,000 adults (Ross 2000, p. 3; CONABIO 
2005, p. 19).
    We have identified a number of potential threats to the Morelet's 
crocodile. Some of these potential threats may directly or indirectly 
affect individual Morelet's crocodiles, while others may affect 
Morelet's crocodile habitat. The contributions of these potential 
threats, identified in the Summary of Factors Affecting the Species 
sections above, are discussed in approximate descending magnitude of 
impact in the foreseeable future:
    (1) A continuation of wild harvest for ranching or direct export 
may pose a threat to the species if the countries decide to change 
course. However, if conducted in compliance with CITES, the wild 
harvest would have to be non-detrimental for the specimens to enter 
international trade. Our assessment of the risk associated with this 
potential threat is based primarily on the demonstrated adverse effects 
of past overharvest on populations. Additional monitoring programs and 
adequate regulatory mechanisms would need to be established prior to 
legalizing ranching. Such mechanisms would be important to prevent the 
laundering of illegally harvested Morelet's crocodiles. We find that, 
taken together, the currently existing protections (described above in 
the Factor D section, Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms) are 
adequate, and they will remain adequate to protect the Morelet's 
crocodile and its habitat in the majority of its range now and within 
the foreseeable future.
    (2) The detection of organic and inorganic environmental 
contaminants in Morelet's crocodile eggs in Belize indicates that 
impacts from concentrations of environmental contaminants may represent 
a potential threat because Morelet's crocodiles have a long lifespan 
during which contaminants may bioaccumulate. However, there is no 
evidence that environmental contaminants are currently affecting 
populations (numbers and reproduction appear to be robust). In order to 
determine that environmental contaminants may be a threat to the 
Morelet's crocodile in the future, their presence in the environment 
must be occurring at a level that affects the long-term population 
levels over at least a significant portion of the range of the species. 
We know of no ongoing monitoring of environmental contaminants anywhere 
in the species'

[[Page 30846]]

range. Although 45 articles within the Mexican LGEEPA deal with 
environmental contamination (CONABIO 2005, Annex 3, p. 1), we have not 
received a detailed analysis of the specific provisions and their 
relevance to Morelet's crocodile. We are unaware of regulatory 
mechanisms governing activities that discharge environmental 
contaminants that potentially affect Morelet's crocodile in Belize. 
However, we do not have any data to indicate that environmental 
contaminants are likely to become a threat in the foreseeable future.
    (3) Although habitat loss and degradation continues to negatively 
affect the habitat for some local populations of the Morelet's 
crocodile, we do not have any information to indicate that it is of 
sufficient magnitude to have a rangewide impact on the species to the 
point that would cause the Morelet's crocodile to meet the definition 
of either an endangered or a threatened species. The species' 
relatively wide distribution throughout its historical range and 
apparent tolerance for habitats in proximity to agriculture, grazing, 
and human habitation are substantial factors mitigating these impacts 
to Morelet's crocodiles over the next several decades. We anticipate 
that these conditions will remain essentially the same in the 
foreseeable future due to the adequate regulatory mechanisms in place 
to protect suitable habitat for the Morelet's crocodile in the majority 
of its range (see discussion above under the Factor D. section, 
Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms).
    The Morelet's crocodile continues to be affected by a variety of 
potential residual threats. It is likely that development, hurricanes 
and other storm events, random human disturbance, fishery activities, 
oil spills, and infestation by parasites will continue to impact 
individual crocodiles into the future. Although these impacts are 
generally expected to continue intermittently at low levels into the 
foreseeable future, we do not expect these impacts to significantly 
affect the Morelet's crocodile to the point that they would result in 
declines in the rangewide status of the species.
    Although some potential threats to the Morelet's crocodile remain 
throughout its range, as discussed above, they are at a low enough 
level they are not having a significant population-level or demographic 
effect on Morelet's crocodile populations in Mexico and Belize; in 
fact, most populations are stable and/or increasing and still occur in 
their historical range. Any low-level threats occurring in Guatemala 
are currently being addressed by the Guatemalan national and provincial 
governments with the help of the local and international NGO community. 
We do not believe, based on the best available information, that the 
extent of potential threats to the species in Guatemala, even if the 
extent of the potential threats increase, will cause the Morelet's 
crocodile to become endangered or threatened in the future. The 
government of Guatemala recognizes the importance of this and other 
landscape species in the Guatemalan Maya Biosphere and are implementing 
regulatory and enforcement controls to combat human encroachment, land 
clearing, fires, and other illegal activities that may pose a threat to 
these species. In addition, Guatemala's request to keep Guatemala's 
populations of Morelet's crocodile in Appendix I attests to their 
commitment to ensure trade does not affect Guatemala's wild Morelet's 
crocodile populations.
    The population viability analysis (PVA) conducted by Sanchez 
(S[aacute]nchez 2005) suggests the probability of survival of a 
population of 30,000 individuals (roughly \1/3\ of the actual 
population of Morelet's crocodiles), subject to high-stress conditions, 
is approximately 86 percent, and the long-term prognosis for the 
survival and genetic diversity of the Morelet's crocodile throughout 
its range is very good, estimating that the average time to reach the 
quasi-extinction threshold of 500 individuals being 483 years 
(S[aacute]nchez 2005, pp. 43-61).
    A species is ``endangered'' for purposes of the Act if it is in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range and is ``threatened'' if it is likely to become endangered within 
the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range. The word ``range'' is used here to refer to the range in which 
the species currently exists, and the word ``significant'' refers to 
the value of that portion of the range being considered to the 
conservation of the species.
    In considering the foreseeable future as it relates to the status 
of the Morelet's crocodile, we defined the ``foreseeable future'' to be 
the extent to which, given the amount and substance of available data, 
events or effects can and should be anticipated, or the threats 
reasonably extrapolated. We considered the historical data to identify 
any relevant threats acting on the species, ongoing conservation 
efforts, data on species abundance and persistence at individual sites 
since the time of listing, and identifiable informational gaps and 
uncertainties regarding residual and emerging threats to the species, 
as well as population status and trends. We then looked to see if 
reliable predictions about the status of the species in response to 
those factors could be drawn. We considered the historical data to 
identify any relevant existing trends that might allow for reliable 
prediction of the future, in the form of extrapolating the trends. We 
also considered whether we could reliably predict any future events, 
not yet acting on the species and, therefore, not yet manifested in a 
trend, that might affect the status of the species, recognizing that 
our ability to make reliable predictions into the future is limited by 
the variable quantity and quality of available data. Following a range-
wide threats analysis, we evaluated whether the Morelet's crocodile is 
endangered or threatened in any significant portion(s) of its range.
    As required by the Act, we considered the five factors, alone and 
in combination, in assessing whether the Morelet's crocodile is 
endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range. We reviewed the petition, information available in our files, 
comments and information received after the publication of our 90-day 
finding (71 FR 36743; June 28, 2006), comments received after the 
publication of our 12-month finding and proposed rule (76 FR 23650; 
April 27, 2011) and other available published and unpublished 
information, and we consulted with recognized experts. We have 
carefully assessed the best available scientific and commercial data 
regarding the past, present, and future threats faced by the Morelet's 
crocodile. We found that although some localized impacts to individual 
Morelet's crocodiles still occur, such as habitat loss from 
agricultural development, they have been reduced enough so as to not 
affect the species on a population level. In addition to the five-
factor analysis, we also considered the progress made by the range 
countries towards addressing previous threats to Morelet's crocodiles. 
We took into consideration the conservation actions that have occurred, 
are ongoing, and are planned. Since listing, the species' status has 
improved because of the following:
     National and international laws and treaties have 
minimized the impacts of hunting and trade in wild-caught specimens.
     Morelet's crocodile populations are stable or increasing.
     Total population size is approximately 19,400 adults in 
the three range countries.

[[Page 30847]]

     Species experts now widely characterize Morelet's 
crocodile populations as healthy.
     The current rangewide distribution of Morelet's crocodile 
now closely resembles the historical rangewide distribution.
     Range countries have improved efforts to protect and 
manage Morelet's crocodile habitat.
     The long-term prognosis for the survival and genetic 
diversity of the Morelet's crocodile throughout its range is very good.
    In sum, the ongoing development and updating of management plans, 
the active management of habitat, the ongoing research, and the 
protections provided by laws and protected lands provide compelling 
evidence that recovery actions have been and will continue to be 
successful.
    The primary factor that led to the listing of the Morelet's 
crocodile was trade. However, the trend today is towards increasing 
population sizes, with trade restricted to ``sources other than wild'' 
specimens only. We find that the localized impacts identified in the 
three range countries, when combined with the increase in population 
sizes, ongoing active research and management, and protections provided 
by range countries, those impacts are not of sufficient imminence, 
intensity, or magnitude to indicate that the Morelet's crocodile is 
threatened with extinction now or in the foreseeable future. 
Consequently, we have determined that Morelet's crocodile is no longer 
endangered or threatened throughout its range.
    Having determined that the Morelet's crocodile is no longer 
endangered or threatened throughout its range, we must next determine 
if the threats to the Morelet's crocodile are not uniformly distributed 
such that populations in one portion of its range experience higher a 
level of threats than populations in other portions of its range.

Significant Portion of Its Range

    The Act defines ``endangered species'' as any species which is ``in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range,'' and ``threatened species'' as any species which is ``likely to 
become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range.'' The definition of 
``species'' is also relevant to this discussion. The Act defines 
``species'' as any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any 
distinct population segment [DPS] of any species of vertebrate fish or 
wildlife which interbreeds when mature. The phrase ``significant 
portion of its range'' (SPR) is not defined by the statute, and we have 
never addressed in our regulations either: (1) The consequences of a 
determination that a species is either endangered or likely to become 
so throughout a significant portion of its range, but not throughout 
all of its range; or (2) what qualifies a portion of a range as 
``significant.''
    For the purposes of this finding, we interpret the phrase 
``significant portion of its range'' in the Act's definitions of 
``endangered species'' and ``threatened species'' to provide an 
independent basis for listing; thus there are two situations (or 
factual bases) under which a species would qualify for listing: a 
species may be endangered or threatened throughout all of its range; or 
a species may be endangered or threatened in only a significant portion 
of its range. If a species is in danger of extinction throughout an 
SPR, then that species is an ``endangered species.'' The same analysis 
applies to ``threatened species.'' Based on this interpretation and 
supported by existing case law, the consequence of finding that a 
species is endangered or threatened in only a significant portion of 
its range is that the entire species will be listed as endangered or 
threatened, respectively, and the Act's protections will be applied 
across the species' entire range.
    We conclude, for the purposes of this finding, that interpreting 
the SPR phrase as providing an independent basis for listing is the 
best interpretation of the Act because it is consistent with the 
purposes and the plain meaning of the key definitions of the Act; it 
does not conflict with established past agency practice, as no 
consistent, long-term agency practice has been established; and it is 
consistent with the judicial opinions that have most closely examined 
this issue. Having concluded that the phrase ``significant portion of 
its range'' provides an independent basis for listing and protecting 
the entire species, we next turn to the meaning of ``significant'' to 
determine the threshold for when such an independent basis for listing 
exists.
    Although there are potentially many ways to determine whether a 
portion of a species' range is ``significant,'' we conclude, for the 
purposes of this finding, that the significance of the portion of the 
range should be determined based on its biological contribution to the 
conservation of the species. For this reason, we describe the threshold 
for ``significant'' in terms of an increase in the risk of extinction 
for the species. We conclude that a biologically based definition of 
``significant'' best conforms to the purposes of the Act, is consistent 
with judicial interpretations, and best ensures species' conservation. 
Thus, for the purposes of this finding, and as explained further below, 
a portion of the range of a species is ``significant'' if its 
contribution to the viability of the species is so important that 
without that portion, the species would be in danger of extinction.
    We evaluate biological significance based on the principles of 
conservation biology using the concepts of redundancy, resiliency, and 
representation. Resiliency describes the characteristics of a species 
and its habitat that allow it to recover from periodic disturbance. 
Redundancy (having multiple populations distributed across the 
landscape) may be needed to provide a margin of safety for the species 
to withstand catastrophic events. Representation (the range of 
variation found in a species) ensures that the species' adaptive 
capabilities are conserved. Redundancy, resiliency, and representation 
are not independent of each other, and some characteristic of a species 
or area may contribute to all three. For example, distribution across a 
wide variety of habitat types is an indicator of representation, but it 
may also indicate a broad geographic distribution contributing to 
redundancy (decreasing the chance that any one event affects the entire 
species), and the likelihood that some habitat types are less 
susceptible to certain threats, contributing to resiliency (the ability 
of the species to recover from disturbance). None of these concepts is 
intended to be mutually exclusive, and a portion of a species' range 
may be determined to be ``significant'' due to its contributions under 
any one or more of these concepts.
    For the purposes of this finding, we determine whether a portion 
qualifies as ``significant'' by asking whether without that portion, 
the representation, redundancy, or resiliency of the species would be 
so impaired that the species would have an increased vulnerability to 
threats to the point that the overall species would be in danger of 
extinction (i.e., would be ``endangered''). Conversely, we would not 
consider the portion of the range at issue to be ``significant'' if 
there is sufficient resiliency, redundancy, and representation 
elsewhere in the species' range that the species would not be in danger 
of extinction throughout its range if the population in that portion of 
the range in question became extirpated (extinct locally).
    We recognize that this definition of ``significant'' (a portion of 
the range of a species is ``significant'' if its contribution to the 
viability of the

[[Page 30848]]

species is so important that without that portion, the species would be 
in danger of extinction) establishes a threshold that is relatively 
high. On the one hand, given that the consequences of finding a species 
to be endangered or threatened in an SPR would be listing the species 
throughout its entire range, it is important to use a threshold for 
``significant'' that is robust. It would not be meaningful or 
appropriate to establish a very low threshold whereby a portion of the 
range can be considered ``significant'' even if only a negligible 
increase in extinction risk would result from its loss. Because nearly 
any portion of a species' range can be said to contribute some 
increment to a species' viability, use of such a low threshold would 
require us to impose restrictions and expend conservation resources 
disproportionately to conservation benefit: Listing would be rangewide, 
even if only a portion of the range of minor conservation importance to 
the species is imperiled. On the other hand, it would be inappropriate 
to establish a threshold for ``significant'' that is too high. This 
would be the case if the standard were, for example, that a portion of 
the range can be considered ``significant'' only if threats in that 
portion result in the entire species' being currently endangered or 
threatened. Such a high bar would not give the SPR phrase independent 
meaning, as the Ninth Circuit held in Defenders of Wildlife v. Norton, 
258 F.3d 1136 (9th Cir. 2001).
    The definition of ``significant'' used in this finding carefully 
balances these concerns. By setting a relatively high threshold, we 
minimize the degree to which restrictions will be imposed or resources 
expended that do not contribute substantially to species conservation. 
But we have not set the threshold so high that the phrase ``in a 
significant portion of its range'' loses independent meaning. 
Specifically, we have not set the threshold as high as it was under the 
interpretation presented by the Service in the Defenders litigation. 
Under that interpretation, the portion of the range would have to be so 
important that current imperilment there would mean that the species 
would be currently imperiled everywhere. Under the definition of 
``significant'' used in this finding, the portion of the range need not 
rise to such an exceptionally high level of biological significance. 
(We recognize that if the species is imperiled in a portion that rises 
to that level of biological significance, then we should conclude that 
the species is in fact imperiled throughout all of its range, and that 
we would not need to rely on the SPR language for such a listing.) 
Rather, under this interpretation we ask whether the species would be 
endangered everywhere without that portion, i.e., if that portion were 
completely extirpated. In other words, the portion of the range need 
not be so important that even the species being in danger of extinction 
in that portion would be sufficient to cause the species in the 
remainder of the range to be endangered; rather, the complete 
extirpation (in a hypothetical future) of the species in that portion 
would be required to cause the species in the remainder of the range to 
be endangered.
    The range of a species can theoretically be divided into portions 
in an infinite number of ways. However, there is no purpose to 
analyzing portions of the range that have no reasonable potential to be 
significant or to analyzing portions of the range in which there is no 
reasonable potential for the species to be endangered or threatened. To 
identify only those portions that warrant further consideration, we 
determine whether there is substantial information indicating that: (1) 
The portions may be ``significant,'' and (2) the species may be in 
danger of extinction there or likely to become so within the 
foreseeable future. Depending on the biology of the species, its range, 
and the threats it faces, it might be more efficient for us to address 
the significance question first or the status question first. Thus, if 
we determine that a portion of the range is not ``significant,'' we do 
not need to determine whether the species is endangered or threatened 
there; if we determine that the species is not endangered or threatened 
in a portion of its range, we do not need to determine if that portion 
is ``significant.'' In practice, a key part of the determination that a 
species is in danger of extinction in a significant portion of its 
range is whether the threats are geographically concentrated in some 
way. If the threats to the species are essentially uniform throughout 
its range, no portion is likely to warrant further consideration. 
Moreover, if any concentration of threats to the species occurs only in 
portions of the species' range that clearly would not meet the 
biologically based definition of ``significant,'' such portions will 
not warrant further consideration.
    After reviewing the potential threats throughout the range of the 
Morelet's crocodile, we determine that there is one portion, Guatemala, 
in which threats could be considered to be concentrated. However, 
Guatemala comprises a small portion of the overall range of the 
Morelet's crocodile. The estimated number of Morelet's crocodiles in 
Guatemala is 13 percent of the potential global population estimate. 
The extent of undisturbed habitat in Guatemala is estimated to be 19 
percent of the total range of undisturbed habitat for the species 
(CONABIO 2005, pp. 16-19).
    As stated above, a portion of the range of a species is 
``significant'' if it contributes to the viability of the species, and 
is so important that without that portion, the species would be in 
danger of extinction. Although Guatemala's commitment to the 
conservation of the Morelet's crocodile and its habitat has markedly 
improved, past drug trade, land grabs, the presence of human 
settlements, expanding agriculture and cattle ranching, poaching, 
forest fires, the oil industry, habitat fragmentation, environmental 
contamination, introduction of invasive species, and an almost complete 
lack of institutional control over their protected areas (IARNA URL IIA 
2006, pp. 88-92) has greatly limited, Guatemala's potential 
contribution to the conservation status of the species. In addition, we 
have no information indicating that the Guatemala population is 
genetically different from the remainder of the range, and we are 
unaware of any data or information indicating that the Morelet's 
crocodile in Guatemala is ecologically unusual, unique, or otherwise 
significant to the species as a whole in any way. We find that if there 
were a loss of the Guatemalan range, it would be unlikely to place the 
remainder of the species in danger of extinction. Thus, we conclude 
that Guatemala does not qualify as a significant portion of the 
species' range, and therefore find that the species does not warrant 
listing throughout a significant portion of its range.

Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment

    Section 3(16) of the Act defines ``species'' to include any species 
or subspecies of fish and wildlife or plants, and any distinct 
population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which 
interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). After assessing whether 
or not the Morelet's crocodile is endangered or threatened throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range, we next consider whether a 
distinct vertebrate population segment (DPS) of the Morelet's crocodile 
meets the definition of endangered or is likely to become endangered in 
the foreseeable future (threatened).
    To interpret and implement the DPS provisions of the Act and 
congressional

[[Page 30849]]

guidance, the Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (now 
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration--Fisheries Service) 
published the Policy Regarding the Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate 
Population Segments (DPS Policy) in the Federal Register on February 7, 
1996 (61 FR 4722). Under the DPS Policy, we evaluate a set of elements 
in a three-step process in order to make our decision concerning the 
establishment and classification of a possible DPS. These elements are 
applied similarly for additions to or removals from the Federal Lists 
of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.
    These elements include: (1) The discreteness of a population in 
relation to the remainder of the taxon to which it belongs; (2) the 
significance of the population segment to the taxon to which it 
belongs; and (3) the population segment's conservation status in 
relation to the Act's definitions of ``endangered'' species and 
``threatened'' species.
    First, the Policy requires the Service to determine that a 
vertebrate population is discrete in relation to the remainder of the 
taxon to which it belongs. Discreteness refers to the ability to 
delineate a population segment from other members of a taxon based on 
either (1) Physical, physiological, ecological, or behavioral factors; 
or (2) international governmental boundaries that result in significant 
differences in control of exploitation, management, or habitat 
conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms that are significant in 
light of section 4(a)(1)(D) of the Act--the inadequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms.
    Second, if we determine that the population is discrete under one 
or more of the discreteness conditions, then a determination is made as 
to whether the population is significant to the larger taxon to which 
it belongs in light of Congressional guidance (see Senate Report 151, 
96th Congress, 1st Session) that the authority to list a DPS be used 
``sparingly and only when the biological evidence indicates that such 
action is warranted.'' In carrying out this examination, we consider 
available scientific evidence of the population's importance to the 
taxon to which it belongs. This consideration may include, but is not 
limited to the following: (1) The persistence of the population segment 
in an ecological setting that is unique or unusual for the taxon; (2) 
evidence that loss of the population segment would result in a 
significant gap in the range of the taxon; (3) evidence that the 
population segment represents the only surviving natural occurrence of 
a taxon that may be more abundant elsewhere as an introduced population 
outside of its historical range; and (4) evidence that the discrete 
population segment differs markedly from other populations of the 
species in its genetic characteristics from other populations of the 
species. The Service may determine that a population segment is 
significant to the taxon to which it belongs based on sufficiently 
strong evidence with respect to any one of these considerations.
    Lastly, if we determine that a population segment is significant to 
the taxon to which it belongs based on these considerations, then the 
policy requires an analysis of the population segment's conservation 
status in relation to the Act's definitions of ``endangered species'' 
and ``threatened species.''

Discreteness

    The first step in our DPS analysis for the Morelet's crocodile was 
to determine whether there were any populations of the Morelet's 
crocodile that were discrete in relation to the remainder of the taxon 
to which it belongs. Under the DPS Policy, a population segment of a 
vertebrate taxon may be considered discrete if it satisfies either one 
of the following conditions: (1) It is markedly separated from other 
populations of the same taxon because of physical, physiological, 
ecological, or behavioral factors. Quantitative measures of genetic or 
morphological discontinuity may provide evidence of this separation; or 
(2) it is delimited by international governmental boundaries within 
which differences in control of exploitation, management of habitat, 
conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms exist that are 
significant in light of section 4(a)(1)(D) of the Act--the inadequacy 
of existing regulatory mechanisms. Recognition of international 
boundaries when they coincide with differences in the management, 
status, or exploitation of the species under the Act is consistent with 
CITES, which recognizes international boundaries for these same 
reasons. CITES is implemented in the United States by the Act.

Physical, Physiological, Ecological, or Behavioral Factors

    We do not have any data or information to indicate that there are 
any physical, physiological, ecological, or behavioral facts that 
separate any populations of the Morelet's crocodile. The historical 
distribution of the Morelet's crocodile comprised the eastern coastal 
plain of Mexico, most of the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, and northern 
Guatemala (Hurley 2005, p. 1), with an estimated historical 
distribution covering 173,746 mi\2\ (450,000 km\2\) (Sigler and 
Dom[iacute]nguez Laso 2008, pp. 11-12). The Morelet's crocodile is a 
wide-ranging species that occurs primarily in freshwater environments 
such as lakes, swamps, and slow-moving rivers. This species of 
crocodile can temporarily inhabit intermittent freshwater bodies such 
as flooded savannahs and is occasionally observed in brackish coastal 
lagoons (Villegas 2006, p. 8).
    We do not have any data or information to indicate that any 
populations of the Morelet's crocodile exhibit genetic or morphological 
discontinuity that may indicate that they are a separate population. 
Although we do not have any data or information on the dispersal 
strategies for the Morelet's crocodile that would indicate a population 
may be discrete, we have no evidence to suggest that there are barriers 
that would prevent the Morelet's crocodile from dispersing within its 
known range. The current rangewide distribution of the Morelet's 
crocodile closely mirrors the historical rangewide distribution, and 
there is a large amount of high-quality habitat available. Therefore, 
we have no evidence suggesting that the Morelet's crocodile is isolated 
in any part of its range.

International Differences in Species' Conservation Status

    As discussed above in the Factor D section, Inadequacy of Existing 
Regulatory Mechanisms, all three range countries are Parties to CITES. 
In addition, data and information available to the Service indicates 
that all three range countries have federally protected-species and 
protected-areas legislation under the jurisdiction of specific 
ministries or departments that control activities that affect the 
Morelet's crocodile and its habitat. Mexico's Federal legal framework 
is particularly robust. The CITES National Legislation Project (http://
www.CITES.org) deemed both Mexico and Guatemala's national legislation 
as Category 1, meeting all the requirements to implement CITES. Belize 
is currently considered to be Category 3 (not meeting the requirements 
for implementing CITES), but has submitted to CITES a national 
legislation plan and draft of legislation, which, if adopted, may 
qualify Belize as Category 1.
    Based on current data and information available to the Service, the 
Governments of Mexico, Guatemala, and

[[Page 30850]]

Belize appear to be adequately enforcing their respective legal 
frameworks, both at the federal level and under CITES. Mexico and 
Belize contain the majority of wild Morelet's crocodiles (87 percent) 
and the majority of the potentially suitable habitat (81 percent) 
throughout the species' range. Because of this adequate enforcement, 
the majority of the threats to the species and its habitat have been 
eliminated in Mexico and Belize. Although some residual threats remain, 
these threats have been reduced to a low enough level that they are not 
having significant population level or demographic effects.
    In contrast, based on data and information available to the 
Service, it appears that in the past, the Government of Guatemala was 
not able to enforce adequately their legal framework to protect the 
Morelet's crocodile and its habitat in Guatemala. The lack of funding 
and personnel made enforcement of Guatemala's legal framework 
especially challenging. Conservation actions were often overwhelmed by 
slow economic development, high levels of poverty, unequal land 
distribution, a highly segmented society, and the effects of more than 
three decades of civil war (Birner et al. 2005, pp. 285, 292).
    For example, ParkWatch (2003) noted that a designation as a 
national park or important wetland conservation area in Guatemala does 
not necessarily afford protection to the Morelet's crocodile or its 
habitat. The Laguna del Tigre National Park, located in Pet[eacute]n 
region of Guatemala, is home to the largest population of Morelet's 
crocodiles in Guatemala. The park was considered by ParkWatch as 
critically threatened due to drug trade, land grabs, the presence of 
human settlements, expanding agriculture and cattle ranching, poaching, 
forest fires, the oil industry, and an almost complete lack of 
institutional control over the area (ParksWatch 2003, pp. 1, 11). 
However, by 2004, ParksWatch stated that the staff at Laguna del Tigre 
had doubled in size since their 2003 report. Seventy-three park 
rangers, 10 archeological site guards, and 96 Army personnel were hired 
to staff the park and since the increase in staffing, both the park and 
the biotope are ``constantly patrolled.'' In addition, the Wildlife 
Conservation Society continued its ``Biodiversity Conservation at a 
Landscape Scale'' program (with USAID) for Guatemala and has provided a 
comprehensive plan with specific goals to preserve and protect wildlife 
in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala through conserving wildlife 
species and their habitat, while maintaining the economic productivity 
of renewable natural resources. They are fulfilling these goals by 
establishing specific parameters: ``to develop adaptive and 
participatory strategy to reduce threats to wildlife in the MBR; to 
develop, implement, and monitor sustainable mechanisms to reduce 
threats to wildlife and ecosystems across the MBR landscape; to learn 
and teach best management practices for the conservation of the MBR and 
beyond; and to guide, design, and test wildlife-focused planning'' (WCS 
2008, p. 3). These efforts were endorsed by the president of Guatemala 
through his office's attendance at the Mesa Multisectorial roundtable 
discussion held in Guatemala in 2009.
    Many outstanding accomplishments have been achieved in Guatemala in 
terms of biodiversity conservation (IARNA URL IIA 2006, p. 22), and 
efforts to achieve desired levels of environmental management are 
ongoing. In August 2010, the president of Guatemala announced that he 
is deploying 250 soldiers to recover fully all the protected zones of 
El Pet[eacute]n in the Laguna del Tigre section of the MBR. This 
``Green Battalion'' was deployed specifically to protect the Laguna del 
Tigre National Park and to work jointly with the National Civil Police 
and the Attorney General's Office to combat drug trafficking and the 
illegal harvest of natural resources and archaeological sites of that 
region of the MBR (Latin American Herald Tribune, December 6, 2010). 
Additional help from WCS and USAID includes establishing over-flights 
to monitor fires, locating illegal settlements, and notifying the 
national and provincial governments (as well as the national media) of 
illegal activities. These efforts have resulted in additional personnel 
added to parks, removal of settlements, consistent patrols and 
cessation of illegal activities, and educating locals and 
concessionaires on best management practices for sustainable use of 
forest products.
    Casta[ntilde]eda Moya (1998a, p. 521; 1998b, p. 13) listed illegal 
hunting as a threat to Morelet's crocodile in the Pet[eacute]n region 
of Guatemala (CITES 2010a), but did not provide a numerical estimate of 
the take. ARCAS, an animal welfare group in Guatemala, reported the 
rescue or recovery of 49 live individuals (about 8 per year), most 
likely from pet dealers or private individuals, during the period 2002-
2007 (ARCAS 2002, p. 3; 2003, p. 2; 2004, p. 2; 2005, p. 2; 2006, p. 3; 
2007, p. 3).
    The Government of Guatemala acknowledged these issues when it 
opposed Mexico's 2010 CITES proposal to transfer the Morelet's 
crocodile from Appendix I to Appendix II throughout its range (See 
Factor D. Inadequacy of Regulatory Mechanisms, Mexico's Proposal To 
Transfer the Morelet's Crocodile to CITES Appendix II. As a result of 
the Government of Guatemala's past inability to adequately enforce 
their legal framework, the Morelet's crocodile in Guatemala may be 
still subject to some illegal hunting and some destruction of habitat 
due to previous human encroachment. This constitutes a difference in 
control of exploitation, management of habitat, conservation status, or 
regulatory mechanisms that is significant in light of section 
4(a)(1)(D) of the Act.
    We have determined, based on the best available data and 
information, that the population of Morelet's crocodiles in Guatemala 
is discrete due to the significant difference in the control of 
exploitation, management of habitat, conservation status, or regulatory 
mechanisms between international boundaries. Therefore, we have 
determined that the Guatemala population of the Morelet's crocodile 
meets the requirements of our DPS Policy for discreteness.

Significance

    Having determined that the population of Morelet's crocodiles in 
Guatemala is discrete under one or more of the discreteness conditions 
described in the DPS Policy, we determined whether the population in 
Guatemala is significant. We evaluate its biological and ecological 
significance based on ``the available scientific evidence of the 
discrete population segment's importance to the taxon to which it 
belongs'' (61 FR 4722). We make this evaluation in light of 
congressional guidance that the Service's authority to list a DPS be 
used ``sparingly.'' As precise circumstances are likely to vary 
considerably from case to case, the DPS Policy does not describe all 
the classes of information that might be used in determining the 
biological and ecological importance of a discrete population. However, 
the DPS Policy describes four possible classes of information that 
provide evidence of a population segment's biological and ecological 
importance to the taxon to which it belongs. As specified in the DPS 
Policy (61 FR 4722), consideration of the population segment's 
significance may include, but is not limited to the following: (1) 
Persistence of the population segment in an ecological setting that is 
unusual or unique for the taxon; (2) evidence that loss of the 
population segment would result in a significant gap in the range of 
the taxon; (3) evidence that the population

[[Page 30851]]

segment represents the only surviving natural occurrence of a taxon 
that may be more abundant elsewhere as an introduced population outside 
of its historical range; and (4) evidence that the discrete population 
segment differs markedly from other populations of the species in its 
genetic characteristics.

Persistence in a Unique Ecological Setting

    As stated in the DPS Policy, occurrence in an unusual ecological 
setting may be an indication that a population segment represents a 
significant resource warranting conservation under the Act (61 FR 
4724). In considering whether the population occupies an ecological 
setting that is unusual or unique for the taxon, we evaluate whether 
the habitat includes unique features not used by the taxon elsewhere 
and whether the habitat shares many features common to the habitats of 
other populations. As stated above, the Morelet's crocodile is a wide-
ranging species that occurs primarily in freshwater environments such 
as lakes, swamps, and slow-moving rivers. This species of crocodile can 
temporarily inhabit intermittent freshwater bodies such as flooded 
savannahs and is occasionally observed in brackish coastal lagoons 
(Villegas 2006, p. 8). All 3 of the Morelet's crocodile's range 
countries have similar freshwater habitats utilized by this species. We 
do not have any evidence to indicate that the Guatemala population of 
the Morelet's crocodile occurs in habitat that includes unique features 
not used by the taxon elsewhere in its range. Morelet's crocodile 
habitat in the Laguna del Tigre National Park consists of flooded 
savannahs and marshes that are typical of the species' habitat 
throughout its range. Therefore, we conclude that the discrete 
population of Morelet's crocodiles in Guatemala is not ``significant'' 
because of persistence in a unique or unusual ecological setting.

Significant Gap in the Taxon's Range

    As stated in the DPS Policy, evidence that loss of the discrete 
population segment would result in a significant gap in the range of a 
taxon is potentially an indication that a population segment represents 
a significant resource warranting conservation under the Act (61 FR 
4724). As the Ninth Circuit has stated, ``[t]he plain language of the 
second significance factor does not limit how a gap could be 
important'' (National Ass'n of Home Builders v. Norton, 340 F.3d 835, 
846 (9th Cir. 2003)). Thus, we considered a variety of ways in which 
the loss of the Guatemala population of the Morelet's crocodile might 
result in a significant gap in the range of species. Namely, we 
considered whether Guatemala contributed to the resiliency, redundancy, 
or representation of the taxon's range. As stated previously in the 
Significant Portion of its Range analysis, the Service concluded that 
due to the small size of the Guatemalan portion of the Morelet's 
crocodile's range and the small population size of the species in 
Guatemala, its overall contribution to the species was limited. While 
Guatemala has regulatory mechanisms in place to protect their national 
parks, it appears that until recently, the government was unable to 
enforce them adequately. Although Guatemala has conserved several areas 
of the Morelet's crocodile's range, past threats limited this 
population's contribution to the species (IARNA URL IIA 2006, pp. 88-
92).
    The Morelet's crocodile in Guatemala does not significantly 
contribute to the resiliency, redundancy, or representation of the 
species or its range, including, but not limited to, the size of the 
range, habitat quality, habitat variability, or genetic uniqueness. The 
majority of the species' range occurs in Mexico and Belize, which 
contain the majority of all wild Morelet's crocodiles (87 percent) and 
the majority of the potentially suitable habitat throughout the 
species' range (81 percent). Guatemala is surrounded to the east by 
Belize, and the north and west by Mexico. It is the southernmost range 
of the species, which resides primarily in the northern part of the 
country. Guatemala shares several rivers with the other range 
countries, including but not limited to, the Rio San Pedro, Rio 
Pasi[oacute]n, and the Rio Ixc[aacute]n with Mexico, and the Rio 
Mop[aacute]n with Belize. All 3 countries share the Rio Azule. Because 
they move throughout these river systems, should a discrete population 
segment of Morelet's crocodiles in Guatemala decrease for any reason 
(which we have concluded is unlikely), then it is likely that Morelet's 
crocodiles in Mexico and Belize, where 87 percent of the species exist, 
could expand their range and recolonize any potential habitat in 
Guatemala. Finally, in spite of Guatemala's recent successes in 
mitigating localized threats to Morelet's crocodile habitat, 
Guatemala's biological contribution to the conservation status of the 
species is limited, due to past impacts from the drug trade, land 
grabs, the presence of human settlements, expanding agriculture and 
cattle ranching, poaching, forest fires, the oil industry, habitat 
fragmentation, environmental contamination, introduction of invasive 
species, and lack of institutional control over their protected areas. 
Thus, we have determined that, although the loss of a discrete 
population segment in Guatemala may create a gap, we conclude that such 
a loss would not create a significant gap in the range of the species.

Natural Occurrence of a Taxon Abundant Elsewhere as an Introduced 
Population

    As stated in the DPS Policy, evidence that the population segment 
represents the only surviving natural occurrence of a taxon that may be 
more abundant elsewhere as an introduced population outside of its 
historical range may be an indication that a population segment 
represents a significant resource warranting conservation under the Act 
(61 FR 4724). This element does not apply to the Morelet's crocodile in 
Guatemala. The Guatemala population of the Morelet's crocodile does not 
represent the only surviving natural occurrence of the Morelet's 
crocodile throughout the range of the taxon. After the protections of 
the Act and CITES were put in place in the 1970s, populations of 
Morelet's crocodiles increased and expanded their range naturally over 
time to the point that they have recovered and are now found in all 
areas of their historical range.

Marked Differences in Genetic Characteristics

    As stated in the DPS Policy, evidence that a discrete population 
segment differs markedly from other populations of the species in its 
genetic characteristics may be an indication that a population segment 
represents a significant resource warranting conservation under the Act 
(61 FR 4724).
    Genetic diversity and integrity is a relatively complicated subject 
with respect to the Morelet's crocodile, and our knowledge across the 
three range countries is uneven. The genetic data we do have are with 
respect to hybridization between Morelet's crocodiles and American 
crocodiles. Thus, we have no information indicating that the Guatemala 
population is markedly different from the remainder of the range

Summary of Significance

    First, we do not have any data or information to indicate that the 
Guatemala population of the Morelet's crocodile occurs in habitat that 
includes unique features not used by the taxon elsewhere in its range. 
Morelet's crocodile habitat in the Laguna del Tigre

[[Page 30852]]

National Park consists of flooded savannahs and marshes that are 
typical of the species' habitat throughout its range. Second, we 
conclude that based on Guatemala's limited biological contribution to 
the range of the species, the loss of Morelet's crocodiles in 13 
percent of their range would not constitute a significant gap in the 
range of the species, due to the loss of a population that is 
ecologically unusual, unique, or otherwise significant to the species 
as a whole in any way (for example, in terms of species or habitat), or 
that contributes substantially to the representation, resiliency, or 
redundancy of the species. Third, the Guatemala population of the 
Morelet's crocodile does not represent the only surviving natural 
occurrence of the Morelet's crocodile throughout the range of the 
taxon. Finally, the Guatemala population of the Morelet's crocodile 
does not have any genetic characteristics that are markedly different 
from Morelet's crocodiles elsewhere in the range of the taxon. 
Therefore, based on the information available to the Service, we 
conclude that the discrete population of Morelet's crocodiles in 
Guatemala does not meet the requirements under our DPS Policy for 
significance.
    Based on the best available data and information, we conclude that 
the Guatemala population of the Morelet's crocodile meets the 
requirements of our DPS Policy for discreteness, but does not meet the 
requirements of our DPS policy for significance in relation to the 
remainder of the taxon (i.e., Morelet's crocodiles in Mexico and 
Belize). The population of Morelet's crocodiles in Guatemala is 
discrete due to the significant difference in the control of 
exploitation, management of habitat, conservation status, or regulatory 
mechanisms between international boundaries. This difference is 
evidenced by the fact that Morelet's crocodiles in Guatemala remain 
listed under Appendix I of CITES, while those in Mexico and Belize were 
downgraded to Appendix II. The discrete population of Morelet's 
crocodiles in Guatemala does not meet the requirements of our DPS 
policy for significance because it: (1) Does not occur in habitat that 
includes unique features not used by the taxon elsewhere in its range; 
(2) would not constitute a significant gap in the range of the species 
due to the loss of a population that contributes substantially to the 
representation, resiliency, or redundancy of the species; (3) does not 
represent the only surviving natural occurrence of the Morelet's 
crocodile throughout the range of the taxon; and (4) does not have any 
genetic characteristics that are markedly different from Morelet's 
crocodiles elsewhere in the range of the taxon. Therefore, we conclude 
that the population of the Morelet's crocodile in Guatemala is not a 
DPS pursuant to our DPS Policy and, therefore, is not a listable entity 
under section 3(16) of the Act.

Effects of This Final Rule

    This final rule revises our regulations at 50 CFR 17.11(h) by 
removing the Morelet's crocodile throughout its range from the Federal 
List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Our regulations do not 
authorize designating critical habitat in areas outside of the United 
States. Specifically, our regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(h) specify that 
critical habitat shall not be designated within foreign countries or in 
other areas outside of U.S. jurisdiction. Because no critical habitat 
was ever designated for this species, this rule will not affect 50 CFR 
17.95.
    The prohibitions and conservation measures provided by the Act, 
particularly through section 9, will no longer apply after the 
effective date of this rule (see DATES, above). This rulemaking, 
however, does not affect the protection given to the Morelet's 
crocodile under CITES. Delisting under the Act allows U.S. import, re-
export, and commercial activity in Morelet's crocodiles and their parts 
and products originating from any country, including the three range 
countries, provided that the requirements of 50 CFR part 13 (General 
Permit Procedures), 50 CFR part 14 (Importation, Exportation, and 
Transportation of Wildlife) and 50 CFR part 23 (CITES) have been met.

Post-Delisting Monitoring

    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires the Secretary of Interior, 
through the Service, to implement a system in cooperation with the 
States to monitor for not less than 5 years the status of all species 
that are removed from the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
and Plants (50 CFR 17.11 and 17.12) due to recovery. This monitoring 
requirement is to ensure prevention of significant risk to the well-
being of recovered species.
    Species monitoring is also called for under CITES. CITES Resolution 
Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP 15) provides criteria for including species under 
CITES Appendices I and II. Through the resolution, the parties have 
resolved that the status of species included in Appendices I and II 
should be regularly reviewed by the range countries and proponents, in 
collaboration with the CITES Animals Committee or Plants Committee, in 
order to monitor the effectiveness of CITES protections, subject to the 
availability of funds (CITES 2007a, p. 3).
    At the international level, perhaps the most important ongoing 
conservation effort for the Morelet's crocodile is the agreement by the 
three range countries to develop and implement the Belize-Guatemala-
Mexico Tri-national Strategy for the Conservation and Sustainable 
Management of Morelet's Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii) (Estrategia 
Tri-nacional Belice-Guatemala-M[eacute]xico para la Conservaci[oacute]n 
y el Manejo Sostenible del Cocodrilo de Morelet (Crocodylus moreletii) 
(Tri-national Strategy) (S[aacute]nchez 2006).
    This initiative began in June 2001, at Laguna del Tigre National 
Park, Pet[eacute]n, Guatemala, when representatives of the three 
countries met to discuss matters of mutual interest. A follow-up 
meeting attended by about 25 species experts and government officials 
from all three range countries took place in April 2006 (Mexico City, 
Mexico). Two working groups were formed: (1) Technical and Scientific 
Matters; and (2) Administration, Management, and Uses. Group members 
discussed technical issues for 2 days, and generated a series of 
products, commitments, and agreements. The first group produced or 
agreed to compile a series of documents, including distribution maps, 
survey techniques, scientific literature, and databases (e.g., 
geographic information system). The second group agreed to work toward 
a regional assessment of the conservation status of the Morelet's 
crocodile, as well as development and implementation of regional 
actions to improve the conservation status of the species 
(institutional capacity building, project development and 
implementation, and development of a regional captive-breeding 
program). The final product of the workshop was the development of 
``Estrategia Regional para el Manejo y la Conservaci[oacute]n del 
Cocodrilo de Morelet (Crocodylus moreletii) (Regional Strategy for the 
Management and Conservation of the Morelet's Crocodile) (Regional 
Strategy), found on pp. 43-53 of the Tri-national Strategy document 
(Sanchez 2006). This Regional Strategy outlines a series of objectives, 
products, and working protocols to accomplish the goals of the Tri-
national Strategy. As these tasks are completed, they will 
significantly enhance the conservation status of the Morelet's 
crocodile.
    According to S[aacute]nchez Herrera and [Aacute]lvarez-Romero 
(2006), as a result of this initiative, the three range countries have 
agreed to implement the Regional

[[Page 30853]]

Strategy, which also includes monitoring the species. The three range 
countries plan to implement the Regional Strategy by:
    (1) Conducting population surveys in defined priority areas using 
systematic and coordinated monitoring, with standardized fieldwork 
methods and techniques.
    (2) Developing a shared biological and geographical information 
system.
    (3) Identifying priority areas and routes for conservation and 
surveillance, along with those for future potential for ranching.
    (4) Supporting and developing educational programs and outreach 
materials.
    (5) Promoting personnel training and experience exchange, including 
field techniques and surveillance.
    (6) Promoting species-friendly production projects such as closed-
cycle farms (and eventually future ranching), along with the 
development of a legal regional market and a certification strategy for 
Morelet's crocodile products.
    (7) Raising funds in support of the activities and tasks outlined 
in the Strategy (S[aacute]nchez Herrera and [Aacute]lvarez-Romero 2006, 
p. 263).
    In 2003, CONABIO requested the Natural History and Ecology 
Institute of Chiapas (IHNE) to develop a study on ``Determination of 
the status of the wild populations of the Morelet's crocodile 
(Crocodylus moreletii) in Mexico and evaluation of its status in 
CITES'' (called the CoPan Project) (CITES 2010a). The Government of 
Mexico is making efforts to design and implement a countrywide 
monitoring program for the populations and habitat of the Morelet's 
crocodile, including the possibility of involving Belize and Guatemala. 
The aim is to build on the experiences and results of the CoPan Project 
and the suggestions made at the 23rd meeting of the CITES Animals 
Committee (Geneva, April 2008, see the Animals Committee summary record 
labeled as document AC23) to obtain better information about the status 
and trends of relevant populations of the species and their habitat. 
The program will be developed in the framework of the Tri-national 
Strategy (CITES 2010a, p. 9). The Government of Mexico has established 
contacts with the Governments of Belize and Guatemala as part of the 
Tri-National Strategy (CITES 2008, p. 32).
    Stage 1 of the project is currently under way. It aims to develop a 
preliminary design of the program, considering relevant areas in the 
range of the species. Ideally, areas could be selected in the three 
countries, based on the COPAN Project and subsequent studies. The 
design was reviewed and assessed in a 2010 workshop involving species 
experts and authorities, who agreed upon on the most appropriate 
methods and define time intervals, routes/localities and variables to 
take into account for crocodiles and their habitat. A manual was 
developed to ensure the effectiveness of fieldwork and training of 
staff. This stage also includes the design of a database where 
information will be organized and centralized (CITES 2010a, p. 9).
    To date, the preliminary design proposes a monitoring effort with 
biannual sampling throughout the range of the species, with 
observations made in at least three routes per defined region (e.g., 12 
regions in Mexico) using nighttime counts. In addition, one of the 
three routes per region will be selected for capture-mark-recapture of 
individuals and standard data/sample collection, as well as nest 
location and monitoring. Information obtained will make it possible to 
estimate relative abundance indices to detect variations in the 
population in time; determine the sex and age ratio and the general 
status and activity of individuals; and obtain data on the reproductive 
effort and success of the species, and on habitat critical for breeding 
(CITES 2010a, pp. 9-10).
    Stage 2 will be implemented once the monitoring program has been 
published. It will consist of implementing the actions decided, 
including setting up and training the field teams; signing the relevant 
cooperation agreements; carrying out field work, and developing the 
database. Information stored in the database will be periodically 
analyzed to produce estimates of the population and its trends in the 
short, medium, and long term (CITES 2010a, pp. 9-10) (CITES 2010a, p. 
10).
    In Belize, Dr. Frank Mazzotti (University of Florida) is 
collaborating with the Belize Forestry Department to develop a national 
crocodile management program (The Croc Docs 2009, pp. 1-8). This 
project seeks to develop, in collaboration with the Lamanai Field 
Research Center, a monitoring program for these species. Along with the 
monitoring program, the project will develop a training program for 
government and nongovernment personnel in Belize so that the monitoring 
program can be maintained. This long-term program has great potential 
to provide ongoing conservation benefits to the Morelet's crocodile in 
Belize. However, recent information suggests that little progress has 
been made for this monitoring program in Belize, and it is currently in 
the process of being reactivated.
    The Act requires the Service to monitor the status of the species 
in cooperation with the States. The Act defines the term ``State'' as 
``any of the several States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth 
of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Trust 
Territory of the Pacific Islands.'' For species found entirely outside 
of the United States and therefore outside the areas defined as a 
``State'' under the Act, we must cooperate with the species' range 
countries to meet the post-delisting monitoring requirements of the Act 
to ensure that the species will maintain its recovered status 
throughout its range after the protections of Act are removed. As the 
species experts, the range countries are best qualified to develop and 
implement a range-wide post-delisting monitoring plan for their 
species. When this rule becomes effective (see DATES, above), and the 
Morelet's crocodile is delisted under the Act, we will work with the 
range countries to monitor the status of the species throughout its 
range via the range countries' implementation of the existing 
monitoring requirements under CITES, the Tri-national Strategy, the 
Belizean monitoring program discussed above, and any additional 
monitoring plans that may be developed in the future.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our joint peer review policy with the National 
Marine Fisheries Service, ``Notice of Interagency Cooperative Policy 
for Peer Review in Endangered Species Act Activities,'' that was 
published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), and 
the Office of Management and Budget's Final Information Quality 
Bulletin for Peer Review, dated December 16, 2004, we sought the expert 
opinions of six independent specialists regarding the science in this 
rule. The purpose of peer review is to ensure that listing, 
reclassification, and delisting decisions are based on scientifically 
sound data, assumptions, and analyses. We sent copies of the April 27, 
2011, proposed rule to the peer reviewers immediately following 
publication in the Federal Register. We invited these peer reviewers to 
comment, during the public comment period, on the specific assumptions 
and conclusions in the proposed delisting of the Morelet's crocodile. 
Although we solicited peer review from 6 peer reviewers, only 2 
responded. We summarized the opinions of these 2 reviewers in this 
final rule, and considered their input and any additional information 
we received as

[[Page 30854]]

part of our process of making this final decision.

Required Determinations

Clarity of Rule

    We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the 
Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain 
language. This means that each rule we publish must: (a) Be logically 
organized; (b) Use the active voice to address readers directly; (c) 
Use clear language rather than jargon; (d) Be divided into short 
sections and sentences; and (e) Use lists and tables wherever possible.
    If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us 
comments by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. To 
better help us revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as 
possible. For example, you should tell us page numbers and the names of 
the sections or paragraphs that are unclearly written, which sections 
or sentences are too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables 
would be useful, etc.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that we do not need to prepare an environmental 
assessment or environmental impact statement, as defined under the 
authority of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 
4321 et seq.), in connection with regulations adopted pursuant to 
section 4(a) of the Endangered Species Act. We published a notice 
outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on 
October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

References Cited

    A complete list of the references used to develop this rule is 
available upon request from the Endangered Species Program in our 
Headquarters office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we hereby amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, 
title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below:

PART 17--[AMENDED]

0
1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Public Law 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise 
noted.


Sec.  17.11  [Amended]

0
2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by removing the entry for ``Crocodile, 
Morelet's'' under ``REPTILES'' from the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife.

    Dated: May 11, 2012.
Daniel M. Ashe,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-12263 Filed 5-22-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P