Case Study: In 1967, the American alligator was listed as an endangered species (under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973), meaning it was considered in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. American alligators were depleted from many parts of their range as a result of hunting and loss of habitat, and 30 years ago many people believed this unique reptile would never recover.
However, the creation of large, commercial alligator farms contributed significantly to saving alligators in the U.S.. Alligator farming is a big and growing industry in Georgia, Florida, Texas and Louisiana, and these states produce a combined annual total of some 45,000 alligator hides. Alligator hides sell for about $300 each, though the price can fluctuate considerably from year to year. The market for alligator meat is growing and approximately 300,000 pounds of meat is produced annually.
Today, in just the state of Louisiana, there are 723,000 alligators on alligator farms, and biologists estimate Florida has 2 million wild alligators. In fact, there are so many wild alligators in Florida that state officials have lifted the ban on alligator hunting, and they now have an 11-week hunting season each year. The American alligator was removed from the endangered species list in 1987 after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pronounced a complete recovery of the species.
Bottom Line: Private property rights, commercial farming, and the commercial sale of alligator meat and hides was largely responsible for the full recovery of the American alligator and helped save it from extinction. The same approach could help save tigers (see recent CD post), elephants and rhinos, or any other endangered species.