Mar 2, 2010

Moholoholo Animal Rehab's happy snappy crocodiles

On the 5th March 2009 we received a batch of crocodile hatchlings, teeny enough to fit into the palm of
your hand! These little snipper snappers came from a farm that bred crocodile and were only allowed to
keep a certain number of them. Having reached their capacity the crocs needed to find a new home. As they were not able to move around freely, as they could do in the wild, a Croc parent was allocated. During their stay here the crocs have had many different parents who have been fortunate enough to watch them grow as they have! Don’t get me wrong! There is plenty of stretch left in their skin and these babies are set to grow to a remarkable size! Daily these leathery skinned juveniles were moved to their various different enclosures, indoors with a heater and small pool of water when it was miserable outside or during the evening, or outdoors to do what crocodiles do best: - bask in the sunshine, recharging their batteries and digesting their food. Ahhh it is a croc’s life!

Their weight is recorded on a regular basis to ensure that no-one is being left behind in the growth spurt to adulthood. Having started off at 50.5g (the lightest) and 77g (the heaviest) they now weigh a whopping 470g and 1110g! When they were first brought in their diet consisted of grasshoppers but soon this was not enough to still their jaw snapping appetite! Besides their tasty chicks, today the crocs were in for an even bigger treat!!!! They were being upgraded to a luxury hotel suite! The dassies that had been living in what was originally meant to be the crocodile pen had been relocated to their new home (another story for another day) and now we were able to get in there and scrub it up so that it would be fit for its reptilian inhabitants. The students scrubbed and raked and carted sand until finally it was ready!!!

The time came to introduce the crew to their new snappy home and one by one their parent of the moment – Benoit – released them into the pool. We all watched eagerly as they swished their way effortlessly through the water, getting the hang of floating in the special way that crocodiles do. (They inflate special air pockets in their sides which allow them to float horizontally in the water with little effort. By special regulation they can drop straight to the floor and stay down perfectly without trying not to bob back up) It is taking a bit of practice as they seem to be standing on the floor sticking their nostrils out to breath but one or two seem to be catching on and soon they will be expert divers! The crocs will now not have to be moved from enclosure to enclosure as they will be able to spend all the day and night in their new abode and will have even more space to practice their stroke.
 The greatest problem we face is where to release crocodiles where they will be accepted and where most of all, they will be safe. Many of the rivers that these reptilian creatures inhabit are thick with unnaturally warmed waters, pollutants and chemical cocktails. Over 1000 crocodiles have died in a couple of the rivers that flow through the park. These pollutants are pumped into the rivers as a result of coal mining, agriculture, cattle farming and industry. All these facets require water to continue and once they are done their waste is returned to the river either by intentionally pumping it back in or through surface erosion which washes chemicals and refuse into the nearby water systems. Nearby homelands are also culprits in polluting the rivers as they seem an ideal waste removal system or Laundromat. The odds seem to be stacked high against these ancient leathery skinned creatures and the last straw seems to have passed them by leaving them with what seems to be a very bleak future. The bird life has also noticeably decreased in the surrounds. Decrease in numbers of other smaller animals such as terrapin and water leguaans that are dependent on these rivers have also dropped remarkably. It seems that as our demands increase we seal the fate of these doomed creatures.

1 comment:

Laurens said...

Hi there, nice story, baby crocs are very cute considering what they become! I visited Moholoholo a little over a year ago while I was in SA and enjoyed it a lot, especially your Honey Badgers! I was wondering if you could help me clarify which species this croc is: taken near Kruger. I'm guessing it's the same species as the crocs described in your article?