The saltwater crocodile or estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is the largest reptile existing nowadays, and can be extremely dangerous to humans. These crocodiles feature a strong sexual dimorphism. Males can measure up to 7 meters almost as long as the biggest snakes, and weigh up to 1000 kg, while females rarely grow beyond 3 meters. The head is relatively large in relation to the body and present two crests around the eyes.
While juvenile saltwater crocodiles are yellowish with stripes and / or dark spots, becoming uniformly dark in adults. The belly is lighter and white or yellowish. The jaws have between 64 to 68 sharp teeth, they are driven by powerful muscles and a single bite can crush the skull of a adult bovine.
Saltwater crocodiles are found all over northern Australia and also in Bangladesh, Brunei, Myanmar, Burma, Cambodia, China, India, Andaman Islands, Indonesia, Malaysia, Palau, Caroline Islands, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Vanuatu and also in the Banks Islands.
They are also known by other names like estuarine crocodile, the indo-pacific crocodile, Singapore Small Grain, saltier, Baya, Buaja, Buaya maura and Gator.
Saltwater Crocodile - Diet
The saltwater crocodile is an animal exclusively carnivorous. While young feed on small fish and amphibians, from adults their prey is as larger turtles, buffalo, monkeys and other animals that they can catch.
The prey are usually hunted when they move to drink from rivers and are killed with a single bite or drowned using the death roll. After death, the crocodile usually consumes the carcass in the river bottom.
Saltwater Crocodile - Reproduction
The saltwater crocodiles are more aggressive during the mating season, which is when males choose a territory and fiercely defend it, from intruders. Only the females enter these territories, because the males attract them with a series of sounds, this occurs between March and November, the wet season. The nest is built on land with mud, leaves and branches.
Like their cousins, the Nile Crocodile, the sex of the offspring is set according to the temperature outside the nest. Males are formed with the average temperature of 30° C, but if temperatures varies considerably, then most will be female.
The mother stays near the nest during the entire period, despite having no active part in incubation, and unearths the eggs as soon as it hears the call of the offspring.
She then moves the young from the nest to the water as they are being born and takes care of them just until they begin to swim alone. Most young crocodiles die during the first months as prey to other animals, but as they grow in size, the probability of survival increases.
Adult males tolerate the presence of juveniles in their territories, sometimes hunting them, but once the young crocodiles grow beyond a certain number are expelled from their territory. Adolescent males then move to other areas until they find a river that could mark as their territory. Sexual maturity in saltwater crocodiles is reached between 10 to 12 years for females and about 16 years for males.
Saltwater Crocodile - Conservation status
This species was almost on the verge of extinction in some places, since there were many reports of attacks on humans. In retaliation, the inhabitants hunted crocodiles during many decades in an intensive way. However, a law of the Australian government of the early 70s of the XX century, came to protect this endangered species.
Now it is possible to find large concentrations of these animals in several areas in the north of Australia, in some cases competing with humans for areas where none had registered the presence of these animals.
This is because, although they are found mostly in areas of brackish or salt water, these animals can live in fresh water, like any other crocodile. They are also frequent reports of sightings of large crocodiles, several kilometers from the coast, in the ocean.
The saltwater crocodile is not in danger of extinction on a global scale, but some populations are seriously threatened. The species was considered extinct in India, but a reintroduction program has been successful.
In Sri Lanka and Thailand the habitat destruction caused the disappearance of this crocodiles, and in Burma they remain only within farms. Australia and Papua New Guinea are home to more stable Saltwater Crocodile populations, thanks to integrated programs of conservation.
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Did you know?
The Everglades is the only place on earth where we can find alligators and crocodiles.