Through genetic sequencing of living and mummified Nile crocodiles, scientists have proven that the formidable African reptiles are actually two distinct species—Crocodylus niloticus, who lives up to the Nile croc’s reputation in size and aggression, and Crocodylus suchus, a smaller, more docile and less abundant species. Nile crocodiles have long been harvested for their skins to make purses, watch bands and other apparel. Unregulated trade of crocodile skin, in addition to numerous other environmental threats such as loss of habitat and hunting for bushmeat have diminished C. suchus, pushing them into the drier interiors of the West African continent. The two species are very similar in outward appearance—meaning both must be protected to ensure C. suchus is not further jeopardized.
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