Animal Diaries Archive
Cookie - Our Favourite Girl
3 December 2004Cookie is the love of Agro's life. She is a large female, 10 foot long and about 35 years old, and is an absolute sweetie.
All crocs are individuals and have their own personality. Just like us, you get active ones, angry ones, and some that are an outright pain in the neck. But every now and then you come across an animal that is an absolute delight. Cookie has the most gentle nature. While we are maintaining the enclosure she'll lay there sunning herself, always watching but undisturbed. During feeding time, Cookie will ever so gently take the food out of your hand, much like a well trained dog (with really big teeth!). All the while, Agro is steaming out the ears at the fact that you’re near his girl. He'll protect her with his life!
While Cookie is such a delight to work with, you can never relax with any of our crocs. She is a wild animal and if she is upset for any reason she is fully capable of causing horrific injuries. Being a fully mature female, Cookie also becomes the most protective of mothers. Every year Agro and Cookie mate and lay fertile eggs. We are now well into the breeding season and Cookie has become what we know as gravid, which simply means she has a belly full of eggs. She has begun scratching up her nest of organic matter and when she is completely satisfied it is perfect for the incubation of her eggs, she'll begin laying.
Laying usually occurs at night, and often after stormy weather. Cookie will dig a chamber down into her nest and will fall into a trance, a state where she appears unaware of her surroundings but focused on depositing her eggs gently inside the nest before covering them over.
Just because the eggs have been successfully laid in her perfect nest, doesn't mean her job is over. In fact it has barely begun.
Cookie will protect and defend her nest and potential young with every ounce of energy and bravery, often taking on animals much larger then herself. Out in the wild, the survival rate of young crocodiles is exceptionally low. Everything in the Australian bush eats croc eggs or the young themselves. Goannas, feral pigs, birds of prey, fish, turtles, other crocs and just about anything else... and that's if they make it out of the nest at all. Flooding destroys countless croc nests every year.
In captivity we have to remove the eggs from the nest. While we do this in a manner so that Cookie doesn't even know they're gone, it would be fantastic to watch such great animals become parents. Imagine watching such a gnarly animal with 3000 pounds per square inch closing jaw pressure roll an egg around inside her mouth to help a young one break into the world, and then carry it down to water without damaging a single scale on its extremely soft little body.
Cookie will defend her nest for the duration of the incubation period, which is usually 90 days. When her eggs don't hatch she will happily try again next year.
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On display in the Crocoseum