The Orinoco Crocodile
By Susana Cortázar
Orinoco crocodiles mate during dry periods and the female digs a nest on a sand bank 14 weeks after mating. The incubation period for the eggs is approximately three months and when they hatch, the newborns call to their mother who digs them out of the nest and carries them into the water. Mothers defend the babies for their first year, as they are at the mercy of black vultures, lizards, anacondas, caimans, and other predators.
The Orinoco crocodile’s biggest threat? Man – who hunts it for its hide. Between the 1940s and 1960s, thousands of these crocodiles were slaughtered in the Orinoco River, which resulted in their numbers plummeting to near extinction. With protection status awarded in the 1970s, it is now thankfully a protected animal in Colombia and Venezuela.
Keepers at Zoo Miami are well aware of the dangers of coming face-to-face with these strong and aggressive animals, and although it is necessary for the keepers to do so during feeding time for cue training, “two keepers are always present in the holding pen with the crocs for the keepers’ safety,” says Kevin. When the exhibit needs cleaning, all five crocodiles are taken to the back area and kept isolated until the keepers are done.
Zoo Miami’s Orinoco crocodiles are males, came from the same clutch, and are six years old. Since these animals have been known to live up to 80 years in captivity, our guys still have a long way to go!
Many people confuse alligators and crocodiles. I guess at first glance they look the same, but there are many obvious differences between them. The alligators’ snout is rounder and when their mouth is closed, you cannot see their teeth. On the other hand, crocodiles have a sharp snout and their many teeth are visible even when their mouth is closed.
Photos by Susana Cortázar