Crocodilians at the DWA

| September 29, 2013

Most of our members and readers are aware of the DWA’s role in the conservation efforts for the Orinoco crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius) since our importation of Miranda and Juancho from Venezuela in 1998. Since that time, we have transported 54 Orinoco crocodiles (hatched at the DWA) back to Venezuela for release into their natural habitat. We are also forming a captive population in AZA institutions that now have 24 sub adult females waiting for a future consort from Venezuela to keep the population growing.

Another crocodilian species currently displayed at the DWA, the smallest of the entire group, is the Dwarf caiman (Paleosuchus palpebrosus) from South America. These caimans only reach five feet in length. The Dwarf caimans displayed on the second level of the Orinoco rainforest are three years old and almost two feet in length. They are peaceful and quiet crocodilians and are accustomed to seeing people very close from the other side of the glass. The exhibit allows our guests to observe the animals with their heads above the surface as they bask under the UV light.

The third species of crocodilians is on display in the Mundo Maya exhibit. Originating from the lowlands of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, the Morelet’s (Crocodylus moreletii) is a medium-sized crocodile that is often confused by our guests as an alligator because of its dark coloration and head shape. Morelet’s crocodiles were considered endangered and since the early 1970s were listed in the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). DWA’s Conservation Biologist, Luis Sigler has been working with captive and wild populations of this species in Mexico since 1990. After joining the DWA staff, he has continued his participation in national and international workshops for this species. The Morelet’s crocodile (prior CITES I), is now CITES II for captive populations in Mexico and Belize and was removed from the ESA last year. Sigler is co-author of three chapters of the monitoring program for the species in its three-country range. This soon-to-be-published book discusses the Morelet’s crocodile in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. The book is being published by CONABIO (the Mexican CITES scientific authority) and the DWA.

Our Orinoco crocodiles are fed each Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Their feeding is easily observed at two levels; the Morelet’s is fed after the big crocs and guests can observe the progress on her training that is being provided by DWA staff. The small Dwarf caimans eat three times a week, depending on their appetites.

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