New Guinea Crocodile
The New Guinea crocodile (Crocodylus novaeguineae) like the name suggests is native to the New Guinea island, which is shared by 2 countries, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. It is now considered extinct on Indonesia's Aru Islands.
The New Guinea crocodile is found in freshwater lakes, marshes and swamps, mostly in the interior part of New Guinea. In the dry season it can enter river systems, if its usual habitat becomes too dry. Seeing it bask on the open is an uncommon behavior, they will normally stay in covered areas during the daytime.
The New Guinea crocodile males may reach a maximum length of 3.5 meters (11.5 ft), the females are usually smaller than 2.7 meters (9 ft). This crocodile species is gray to brownish with dark bands on body and tail.
The snout is somewhat narrow and pointed in juveniles, nevertheless it will become wider as the crocodile matures. The juveniles have a more distinct banding on their body and tail than the adult specimens. As juveniles they can be bit difficult to distinguish from Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) juveniles.
The Philippine crocodile was classified as a subspecies of the New Guinea Crocodile until recently.
There are 2 genetically distinct populations of New Guinea crocodiles that inhabit the New Guinea island. They are separated by the mountains that run between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
They have some differences in their appearance (in the north the specimens have 4 post-occipital scales on the neck in the south they range from 4 to 6). They also differ on reproductive behavior (see reproduction section for details), however the 2 populations are not recognized as subspecies.
New Guinea Crocodile - Diet
The New Guinea crocodile as mostly nocturnal hunting habits. Adults will feed on fish, waterbirds, amphibians and reptiles, on the other hand juveniles will prey on insects and a variety of small aquatic invertebrates.
New Guinea Crocodile - Reproduction
Females will reach sexual maturity at a average length of 1.6 to 2 m (5-6 ft), on the other hand males only become sexually mature at a of about 2.5 m (8 feet). The female will stay close to the nest for the duration of the incubation period, but may not necessarily defend it.
The eggs hatch after about 80 days and both males and females have been reported helping the hatchlings, digging them out of the nest and also carrying them to the water.
The populations that inhabits the north region of the species range are known to lay from 22 to 45 eggs and always during the dry season. They will typically use overgrown river tributaries and floating mats of vegetation as breeding habitat.
Crocodiles living on the southern region of the range construct the nests at the start of the wet season on dry land to minimize the risk of flooding. Compared to the northern specimens the one on the south lay fewer but larger eggs. The southern hatchlings are about 5 cm (2 in) longer than northern hatchlings.
New Guinea Crocodile - Conservation status and major threats
The New Guinea Crocodile was over-hunted in the 50's and 60's. The skin of the New Guinea crocodile is considered of very high quality and therefore expensive, almost as expensive as the Saltwater crocodile skin.
It wasn't until the 1970's that legislation protecting them was introduced in Papua New Guinea, and highly successful management programs based on cropping and ranching were developed.
The same type of harvesting programs and monitoring combined with efficient law enforcement are also being set up on Indonesia. The estimated wild population range from 50,000 to 100,000 individuals and the species is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
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