Alligator hide. Photo courtesy of Flickr user zappowbang.
This is the seventh of 12 Things You Should Know about Alligators and Everglades Wildlife, a free eBook.
Alligators are no longer considered endangered. However, at one point, alligators were in great danger of extinction. From the 1800s through the mid-1900s, gators were often hunted for their skins, which were used in making leather. They were also poached for meat. This large-scale hunting and poaching, along with loss of habitat, reduced the alligator population so dramatically that it was on the brink of extinction. In 1967, the alligator was listed as an endangered species, and was considered in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 prohibited alligator hunting, allowing the species to rebound in many areas where it had been depleted.
The U.S. government took measures to protect and preserve the alligator population. In addition to declaring it illegal to hunt them, large commercial farms for breeding were also created. These measures were successful in not only saving alligators from extinction, but also in increasing the population.
In 1987, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pronounced the American alligator fully recovered, and it was removed from the list of endangered species. However, the Fish and Wildlife Service still regulates the legal trade in alligator skins and products made from them.
The alligator industry has emerged as a large and profitable one in the United States. It is mainly concentrated in Florida, Georgia, Texas and Louisiana. Combined, these four states produce approximately 45,000 alligator hides annually. The market for alligator meat is also rapidly developing as a million dollar industry.
Although there have been many measures taken for the preservation of American alligator, it is now facing many threats. The consistently high temperature and low availability of food, mainly in Florida, delays alligators from reaching sexual maturity and the capability of reproduction. Also, a reduction in length has been observed in alligators. Although they are no longer endangered, alligators are listed as a threatened species, and hunting is highly regulated.