Animal Diaries Archive
Terra and Munga Are Settling In Well
6 May 2005Terra and Munga, our two newest arrivals, are settling in well. It is a massive culture shock for a crocodile to be moved from the wild into captivity, not to mention stressful (for both the croc and us). It may take a year or more before our new blokes are comfortable enough to begin handfeeding, but the early stages are looking good.
The process starts by allowing the crocs time to settle in to their new environment. This means no traffic (vehicles or people), in or around their area. Each night the crocs will explore their new boundaries, familiarising themselves with the area and testing every inch of the fenceline for weaknesses. Initially the crocs are very shy, and as a result they often don't eat for the first few weeks. To get them to start eating what is sometimes unfamiliar food, we leave it right on the edge of the pond and usually it will be under the cover of darkness when they first begin to take the small pieces of food. You have to keep in mind that the last time these crocs ate, they set off our traps, which started them on a long journey from North Queensland back here to Australia Zoo, so naturally they are very wary.
We leave food out about every three nights and as the crocs start feeding regularly, we slowly move the food further away from the water's edge to encourage them out on land to feed. This is ultimately what we need for our crocodile shows.
The next step is to leave the food out earlier in the day to entice them into feeding during the daylight. In the wild, crocs mostly feed at night, so this is probably the stage that requires the most perseverance.
Once the crocs have become comfortable feeding on land during the day, we work on the second side of the process. You see, it's not just a matter of 'once they're feeding on land we can jump right in to do a demonstration.' No way! Now we have to get them used to humans, which is difficult when you consider that crocodiles generally have a natural fear of people. Humans have been hunting and shooting at them for hundreds of years and more recently, trapping them for relocation, so crocodiles have learned that people are bad news and they generally try to avoid us.
We want our crocs to recognize the vibration of our buckets and our feet. Crocs are extremely sensitive to vibrations and this is actually their greatest asset when hunting. So we do what we can to get them to attack us. Initially we retreat so as the croc feels as though he has driven us out of his territory. This will give him great self-esteem and is a huge step forward for both the crocodile and our demonstrations.
When the crocodile is attacking us on a regular basis, we will try to throw food into his mouth so he learns that when he attacks us he gets food, just like out in the wild.
Terra and Munga are both going great guns. They are both feeding extremely well, coming well out on land and Munga even feeds during daylight on occasions. The most exciting moment of all happened just last week. Terra launched a territorial attack on Toby, our Head Crocodile Keeper. He flew out of the water, mouth and eyes wide open. Unfortunately this scared the beejeepers out of Tobes and he missed with the piece of food he had. Terra just sat on the surface staring straight at Tobes, daring him to make another move.
This is a fantastic time at Australia Zoo. Nothing is more exciting for our keepers than working with new crocodiles... Well, maybe catching them!
Until next time... CROCS RULE!
Our Amazing Saltwater Crocodiles
The saltwater crocodile, also known as the estuarine or Indo-Pacific crocodile, is the largest of all living reptiles. This apex predator is formidable, opportu ...more
On display in the Crocoseum