THE SALTWATER CROCODILE




The Saltwater Crocodile - Crocodylus porosus, is a formidable, opportunistic and adaptable predator which occurs over a considerable range. It's habitat ranges from Northern Australia through southeast Asia, and as far as the eastern coast of India. Historically, this range once reached as far west as off the eastern coast of Africa and as far east as waters off of Japan.

What does the saltwater crocodile eat?

Occasionally, saltwater crocodiles will attack and kill humans, but as an opportunistic apex predator it is capable of taking almost any animal that enters its territory.

Juvenile Saltwater Crocodiles are restricted to feeding on smaller animals such as insects, amphibians, crustaceans, small reptiles, and fish. However, the larger the animal grows, the greater the variety of animals it includes in its diet. Be that as it may, relatively small aquatic prey, especially fish, make up an important part of the diet - even in adults.

Large adult saltwater crocodiles can potentially eat any animal within their range. Wild animals taken by adult crocodiles can range from small to large and formidable, including monkeys, kangaroos, wild boar, dingos, snakes, turtles, goannas, lizards, amphibians, water buffalo, and even sharks.

How big does the saltwater crocodile get?

It turns out that the saltwater crocodile is actually the world's largest reptile alive today! However, the largest size that saltwater crocodiles can reach is the subject of some considerable controversy.

The longest crocodile ever measured snout-to-tail and verified was the skin of a dead crocodile, which was 6.2 metres long. As skins tend to shrink slightly after removal from the carcass, this crocodile's living length was estimated at 6.3 metres, and it could have weighed more than 1,000 kilograms.

However, complete remains (the skull of a crocodile shot in Orissa) have been claimed to come from a 7.6-metre crocodile, but subsequent examinations have suggested a length no greater than 7 metres. There have been numerous claims of saltwater crocodiles in the 9-metre range. In fact,a crocodile shot in the Bay of Bengal in 1840, reported a length of 10 metres!

A crocodile shot in Queensland in 1957 was reported to be 8.63 metres long, but no verified measurements were made and no remains of this crocodile exist.

With the recent restoration of salt water crocodile habitat and reduced poaching, it is now possible for saltwater crocodiles to grow past 7 metres once more.

The Guinness Book of Records has accepted a claim of a 7-metre, 2,000 kg male saltwater crocodile living within Bhitarkanika Park in the state of Orissa, India, although, due to the difficulty of trapping and measuring a very large living crocodile, the accuracy of these dimensions has yet to be verified.

In September 2011 a 6.4 metres saltwater crocodile was captured alive in the Philippines, making it one of the largest specimens ever reliably measured snout-to-tail. This specimen - nicknamed 'Lolong' and weighing roughly 1,075 kilograms - has a past as a possible man-eater and is being kept alive as an attraction in a local zoo.

Saltwater crocodile conservation

As well as being hunted for its meat and eggs, the saltwater crocodile has the most commercially valuable skin of any crocodilian, and unregulated hunting during the 20th century caused a dramatic decline in the species throughout its range. Incredibly the saltwater crocodile population in northern Australia was reduced by around 95% by 1971.

Unfortunately, illegal hunting still persists in some areas, with protection in some countries ineffective, and trade often difficult to monitor and control over such a vast range. Despite this, the species has since made a dramatic recovery in recent decades. Because of its resurgence, the species is now considered of least concern for extinction.

Current populations are estimated to range from 200,000 to 300,000 worldwide, and currently the saltwater crocodile is considered to be at low risk for extinction. However, habitat loss continues to be a major problem. In northern Australia, much of the nesting habitat of the saltwater crocodile has been destroyed by the trampling of feral water buffaloes, although buffalo eradication programs have now reduced this problem considerably. Even where large areas of suitable habitat remain, habitat alterations can be a problem, such as in the Andaman Islands, where freshwater areas used for nesting, are being increasingly converted for human agriculture. After the commercial value of crocodile skins waned, perhaps the greatest immediate challenge to implementing conservation efforts has been the occasional danger that the species can be to humans and the resulting negative view of the crocodile.

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