After the announcement of a possible collaboration between an Israeli company and Cyprus Authorities, Crocodile farm (of 1002 individuals) installation in Psematismenos is one of the hot environmental topics in the Cypriot media. Such incidence raised many concerns and arguments against it, while others are hoping for a slight financial boost to the island’s economy, without considering the environmental and health impacts.
Alien species invasion in Cyprus is well pronounced in marine environments (e.g. fish, algae) through maritime trafficking and connectivity between different marine systems; terrestrial plants, rodents, arachnoids, insects and others through illegal trading. However, Cyprus is a physical barrier against the dispersal of big non-native animals such in the case of crocodiles and alligators and the local biodiversity is not adapted to the presence of crocodiles and their hosted microorganisms. The introduction of these non-domesticated animals to the island would arise many health and environmental consequences. These exotic animals are well known to be hosts of diseases such as Mycoplasmosis, Chlamydiosis, Caiman pox, Adenoviral virus, and even Salmonella. The spatial and body temperature requirements of these animals should be of high consideration as if they are tightly spaced in farms they get easily stressed, and therefore become vulnerable to diseases. Increase in body temperature over 33 ºC would also lower their immune system and become prone to infection.
Outbreak of emerging infectious diseases could further spread outside the farms via the crocodiles to the crocodile handlers, and eventually to the public. In Louisiana and Florida, the presence of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile Virus was associated with the installed crocodile farm followed by a series of infections and related crocodile deaths resulting to huge economic loss and high risk of disease transmission to humans.
Regarding environmental impact, it is unlikely to know what alterations would occur in the area, especially to Psematismenos where there is no information about the ecosystem dynamics, services and functions, and the local biodiversity. Furthermore, it is likely that the crocodile farm will serve as a source point pollution of accumulated organic waste to the surrounding area coming from the crocodiles’ faeces and food leftovers. It is possible to expect amplification in mosquito populations around the area, and consequently regional spread.
What should be done then? Environmental impact and health risk assessment should be undertaken with caution via strong statistical analysis and modelling. Non decision should be taken before this and results of the environmental impact risk assessment should be published to the public in both scientific and common forms. Economic benefits should also be taken into account, as there is a high probability for the farm to fail and result to economic loss.
Master’s Candidate in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation
Member of Young Cyprus Greens