Sportswear maker Lacoste has commit-ted to spend a half-million dollars over the next three years to help preserve an endangered species close to its corporate heart — the crocodile.

This story first appeared in the December 23, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The initiative is part of a program called “Save Your Logo,” implemented last year by the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which encourages companies to become involved in preserving animals related to their brand insignia. Lacoste is the first fashion company to sign on to this cause marketing platform, joining insurance company MAAF (dolphin logo), the Val d’Isère ski resort (eagle) and the Olympique Lyonnais soccer club (lion).

Lacoste’s first project as part of its conservation effort is to help grow the population of the critically endangered Gange gharial, a crocodile species that lives on the Indian subcontinent and can be identified by its long, slender mouth with fully visible teeth. Only about 1,400 remain in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

In October, Michel Lacoste, president of Lacoste SA, visited a gharial breeding farm in the Chitwan National Park in Nepal operated by the wildlife fund and now supported by the French fashion brand. “We hope to be able to give back to our iconic crocodile — to whom we owe so much — a small part of what he has brought us,” Lacoste said. “Seventy-five years ago, we were the first company to embroider a logo on apparel, and now we are the first company to support ‘Save Your Logo.’”

Lacoste said company funds would be used to help expand incubator pools in which young gharials are housed after birth for at least six years before being released into the Ganges river. In addition, the company will help modernize the facility’s infrastructure and educational programs for visitors.

More than 300 large global brands use logos incorporating animals or plants that are threatened by dwindling biodiversity on the planet, said the directors of Save Your Logo.