For the world's rarest crocodile, the Philippine crocodile, Marites Gatan Balbas is something of a godsend. The conservationist has worked to reverse the public image of the animal, traditionally used as a slur in reference to corrupt politicians and often targeted for its hide and the pet trade.
As the deputy director and field project manager of the Mabuwaya Foundation, Gatan Balbas increased the wild population from just 12 individuals in 2001 to 109 today, using local community labor and education. She was recently given a Whitley Fund for Nature award for her work with the species.
"In our country there are organisations that are working to conserve endangered species like the Philippine eagle, the Philippine cockatoo, the green sea turtle and the Isabela oriole. But these are very beautiful species and [they] do not have an image problem -- nobody cared about the crocodile and that's why we set up our foundation, because we care. We don't want the crocodile to be extinct, we want to enjoy it," Gatan Balbas told the Guardian.