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Praktische Erfahrungen beim Identifizieren von Krokodil-Lederwaren für die Belange des Artenschutzes

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Experiences gained during nearly a decade of practice of identifying crocodile leather goods are reported, to counsel other herpetologists, who are dealing with the same problems, and to help them to avoid sources of error. Artificial crocodile-like leather is manufactured mostly of calf hides on which the typical crocodile pattern is coined and can be identified by reason of the abnormal regularity of the arrangement of the scutes and scales, the presence of mammalian hair pores, not to be mistaken for the pore-like sense organs of the true crocodiles and the gharial, and the softness of those structures which are deluding to be ossified. So-called Diamond Croco is consisting of a basic layer of poorest crocodile skiver coated with a layer of varnish on which the "crocodile pattern" is coined. The coating layer can be removed by means of acetone. Finally, the arrangement of the dermis (cutis) fibres of microscopical slices may give an indication whether or not a leather is made of a crocodile or a mammal. In most cases, true caiman goods mostly offered as brown coloured and water-proof Wild Croco are easy to identify by reason of the typical hard and double-pieced ossifications of the ventral scutes. However, the Italian industry has found a method to remove the ossification by means of simple shivers of glass, so that the goods can be manufactured as black and shiny High Polish Croco. In spite of the softness of the formerly ossified parts, the identification as true caiman leather is possible, as the surface of the belly scutes still retained remnants of the wrinkles caused by the former ossifications beneath them. On the contracy to all alligators and caimans (family Alligatoridae), the leather of the true crocodiles (family Crocodylidae) and of the true gharial (family Gavialidae) may be identified by reason of one or more pore-like sense organs at the rears of the belly scutes. However, this feature is not clear in all cases. Some typical features of true crocodilian leather goods may concentrate the efforts to some few species only or may exclude a large number of other species a priori. Such "key features" may be an unusual large or low number of belly scutes within the middlemost transversal or longitudinal series, certain peculiarities in the number and in the arrangement of the flank scales, or the squarish or rectangular shape of the scutes. An identification, at least of the racial relationship, is impossible if the external longitudinal series of the flank scales are cut off. Such mutilations may be a trick to prevent an identification of Rio Apaporis crocodile caiman (Caiman crocodilus apaporiensis) hides, belonging to the most endangered crocodilians (CITES Appendix I). This subspecies can be separated from the northern crocodile caiman (C. c. fuscus, Appendix II) only by reason of the details of the flank scales, especially of those of the external series. Occasionally, only one face of a bag my consist of C. c. apaporiensis leather while the opposite face is manufactured of the leather of another subspecies, like C. c. fuscus or C. c. crocodilus. Combinations of parts of different species are not uncommon.

Affiliations: 1: Arsenalplatz 3, D-7140 Ludwigsburg, F.R. Germany


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