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Savior of endangered crocodiles dies of malaria

Crocodile-expert and conservationist, Dr. John Thorbjarnarson, died of falciparum malaria in India on February 14th at the age of fifty-two.

While many conservationists work with publicly popular animals like tigers and whales, Thorbjarnarson’s passion was for crocodiles. A Senior Conservation Scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Thorbjarnarson proved instrumental in saving both the Orinoco crocodile and the Chinese alligator from extinction.

Working with the late conservationist Thomas Blohm, Thorbjarnarson established a captive breeding population of the Critically Endangered Orinoco crocodile in Venezuela. Two decades later: the project has released more than 1,500 individual crocodiles into the wild.

Thorbjarnarson also initiated surveys of the Chinese alligator in the Yangtze River to find the species decimated: only 120 alligators survived on a measly 11 hectares. Habitat restoration projects and reintroduction programs for captive bred individuals are now progressing for the Critically Endangered species.

Thorbjarnarson also worked for over a decade with the Cuban crocodile, also considered Critically Endangered because of unsustainable hunting, habitat loss, and breeding with the American crocodile.

WCS has established a memorial fund in John Thorbjarnarson’s name to help continue his work in saving the world’s most endangered crocodilians: Memorial Fund.

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