D Madhavan – The Time of India
CHENNAI: In a further boost to wildlife conservation, after a gap of more than two-and-a-half decades, 26 fresh water crocodiles
were hatched at Vandalur zoo last week.
Interestly, it was in the same month (June) last year more than 40 mugger crocodiles were hatched in one of the eight enclaves in the zoo. According to biologists in the zoo, the month of June is considered ideal for hatching crocodiles due to favourable weather conditions. “Crocodile eggs normally take 90 days to hatch and these eggs had already crossed the 90-day mark. We have been expecting them to hatch since last week,” a biologist told The Times of India.
Except the Cuban crocodile, the zoological park at Vandalur has rest of the seven major varieties such as Indo-Pacific or the salt water crocodile, swamp crocodile, Nile crocodile of Africa, Ornoco crocodile, Morelet’s crocodile and American crocodile. In the eight enclaves, there are 115 adult crocodiles and more than 200 young ones belonging to the six varieties. This includes two pairs of fresh water adult crocodiles.
Unlike young mugger crocodiles, also known as marsh crocodile that weighs about 80 gram each, the fresh water crocodile weighs between 150 gram and 200 gram, while the adults weigh more than 100 kg each. According to zoo officials, usually the new ones do not consume food for at least a fortnight and remain with their mother. “After two weeks, we will provide them beef or fish. An adult crocodile is usually given 250 gm of beef a day,” said officials.
Unlike other reptiles such as snakes, which swallow their young when hungry, crocodiles don’t harm their young ones. These reptiles need food only once in a fortnight. According to zoo officials, generally, this variety of crocodiles is found in Australia and these crocodiles are not known to harm human beings. Their jaws are not big enough to seriously harm humans.
However, in order to ensure the safety of these young reptiles from wild birds, zoo authorities have kept the young ones in a separate enclosure and are continuously monitoring their health. As most of the eight enclaves were not properly covered till recently, there have been cases of birds carrying away young crocodiles and dropping them in the nearby lakes. March crocodiles have become a danger in many lakes south of Tambaram.
In the last decade, many Indian zoological parks have been successful in breeding crocodiles. From a mere six zoos in 1980 breeding only mugger crocodiles, today there are more than 32 zoological parks in the country breeding all the three species of Indian crocodiles marsh, salt water and swamp crocodiles.
The real push for captive breeding of the animals came after the launch of the Indian crocodile conservation project by the Union government in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 1975.