The Nile crocodile also known as African crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) inhabits all of mainland Africa south of the Sahara desert, and even the west coast of Madagascar. They can be found in rivers, lakes, marshes or ponds of water.
There are large variations in the populations of this species of wide geographical distribution (for example, in length and shape of the scales). Nile crocodile numbers in the wild are estimated being from 250,000 to 500,000.
This distribution, in the vast African continent, has had tragic consequences in human populations that live in the coastal areas and that lack of water sources in villages. Every day, someone has to go along the rivers in search of the precious liquid, and in these circumstances many have been victims of the voracious appetite of these large reptiles.
The Nile crocodile is Africa's largest crocodilian and is the second largest crocodile in the world after the Saltwater crocodile. A large male of the Nile crocodile, can reach over 5.5 meters.
But some exceptionally large specimens can reach up to 6 meters , like the mythical giant known as Gustave Crocodile, that is believed to have killed more than 300 people. Large Nile crocodile adults can weigh over 1000 kg. Like all crocodiles species there is sexual dimorphism, the males are up to 30% larger than the females.
The snout is longer and narrower at the end, the fourth tooth on each side of the lower jaw is visible with the mouth closed and this is one of the characteristics that distinguish the crocodiles (family Crocodilidae) from alligators (family Alligatoridae). The skin color is olive green or brown and is covered by horny scales. They feature inter digital membranes and very strong claws.
The life expectancy of a Nile crocodile who reaches adulthood will be around 60 years in the wild and can reach up to 80 years in captivity.
The Nile crocodile has about 60 teeth, and if any falls during the attacks on its prey, then a new one replaces it in the same place. Like all crocodiles, the fourth tooth on each side of the lower jaw is exposed, even when the animal has a closed mouth, a characteristic that distinguishes the crocodiles from alligators.
They are most active at night, resting during the day on the shores or banks of sand, keeping the mouth open during hours of greatest heat (thermo-regulatory behavior).
Nile Crocodile - Diet
Nile Crocodiles feed on almost anything that moves in or near the water. Juveniles feed on invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, fish and other small vertebrates. Adults are fierce predators, which feed on fish, turtles, waterfowl, antelope, zebras, whether gazelles, wildebeest, African buffalo livestock and sometimes cadavers. They kill their prey with the powerful crocodile bite or applying the death roll and drowning them
They have a reputation for attacking and eating men and are responsible for many crocodile attacks. Not because the Nile crocodile is a man-eater, but because, for these survivors of millions of years, it's just food. Elephants and rhinos because of their size when adults are safe, however the cubs or juveniles may be attacked. With hippopotamus,the crocodiles have a relationship of mutual respect and sharing of territories, although when a hippo dies, it becomes crocodile food.
Nile Crocodile - Reproduction
Males become sexually mature at about 3 m (10 ft) or 10 years of age and females at 2m (6.5 ft) or 10 years of age. The mating ritual is somewhat elaborated, the male releases a secretion whose scent stimulates the female, and rubs his throat in her neck. Mating occurs in water. This is an oviparous species.
The female makes a nest with mud and leaves, where she deposits up to 60 eggs, the incubation takes about three months. The sex of the newborns depends on the incubation temperature in a colder year (26º C to 30º C) the offspring will be mostly composed of females, by contrast, in a warmer year (31° C to 34º C) the offspring will be mostly males. When it is time to hatch, parents helps to open the eggs by cracking them in its mouth. Hatchlings are 30 cm (12 in) long and are dark olive green with darker cross banding on the body and tail.
The Nile crocodile nests are a real draw for some animals for whom eggs are an important part of their diet, like the nile monitor, which reduces the outset the number of juvenile crocodiles to be born. In some cases all the eggs in a nest, without exception, are eaten or broken.
Of the animals that are born and can reach safety in the water inside the mother's mouth, the vast majority end up as food from other crocodiles, birds or other animals. These conditions reduce the rate of survival of crocodiles they become adults, which is about 1%.
Nile Crocodile - Conservation status and major threats
The population of the Nile crocodile is not endangered, and in recent years the number of animals as had a significant increase, especially in areas where it already had almost disappeared. The species is not threatened globally (according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature).
Belongs to Appendix I of CITES. It was subjected to intensive hunting for their skin, since the nineteenth century, only being published legislation which sought its protection by mid-twentieth century.
The increasing occupation of the Nile crocodile habitat by humans, hunting for human consumption and the persecution for being a direct threat to people and livestock are another important threats to this species.
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Did you know?
There only are 2 different species of alligator, the American alligator and the Chinese alligator.