Saltwater crocodile

Crocodylus porosus

TAXONOMY

Crocodylus porosus Schneider, 1801, Ceylon and western India. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Estuarine crocodile, Indo-Pacific crocodile; French: Crocodile marin; German: Leistenkrokodil; Spanish: Cocodrilo poroso Bahasa.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This is the world's largest crocodilian, growing to over 20 ft (6.1 m) in length and weighing up to 2,200 lb (1 metric ton). Adult males average 13-16.5 ft (4-5 m) in length, and females 10-11.5 ft (3-3.5 m). The saltwater crocodile may be black, dark brown, or yellowish dorsally, with lighter flanks spotted with black. The underside is white or yellowish. Unlike all other crocodilians, the enlarged postoccipital scales are usually absent. Instead, the postoccipital region on the back of the neck is covered with small beadlike scales. The hind feet are strongly webbed.

DISTRIBUTION

Scattered populations from the east coast of India to Australia. This is the most widely distributed crocodilian in the world.

HABITAT

Although most at home in brackish tidal mangrove waterways, saltwater crocodiles can be found in freshwater habitats hundreds of miles (or kilometers) inland.

BEHAVIOR

Large, adult males are territorial and solitary. Females typically have small home ranges of a few square miles (or kilometers) while adult males have been known to patrol territories of 100 mi2 (260 km2).

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Young saltwater crocodiles feed mainly on small crabs and fish. Adult saltwater crocodiles may lie in wait for large mammals, both wild and domestic, at water holes. Humans are sometimes taken.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

The breeding season occurs from April to May in India, and January to February in Australia. The female lays 40-70 eggs in a mound of vegetation. A nesting female will typically make herself a wallow near the nest from where she will guard it for the 70-80 days incubation. She releases the hatchlings and then guards them, but predation on hatchlings is still high.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Although widely distributed, saltwater crocodiles have been killed out of fear and for their valuable skins throughout their range. Only in Australia and Papua New Guinea are there effective management programs in place, which allow sustainable use of saltwater crocodiles for skin and meat. Other Asian countries in the range of the saltwater crocodile need to enforce existing protective legislation while educating people on how to live with crocodiles. The saltwater crocodile is afforded protection on paper throughout its range. It is no longer listed on the IUCN Red List, but it appears on CITES Appendix I. Estimated wild population is 200,000-300,000.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Large saltwater crocodiles consider humans and their livestock as prey items. This has led to animosity toward this species; yet the saltwater crocodile forms the basis for a skin industry for a large number of indigenous people in the Asia/Pacific region. ♦

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