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Here for a While, Crocodile!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Here for a While, Crocodile!

A new face is always exciting at the Zoo but we’re especially proud to be part of the much larger, global conservation efforts. Through a partnership with the Crocodilian Conservation Center of Florida (CCCF), we’ve welcomed Roberta—a seven-foot long Orinoco crocodile!

These beastly reptiles are South America’s largest predator, growing up to 23-feet long and can weigh over 800-pounds! They’re recognizable by their narrow snout and can be found in the limited freshwater rivers of Colombia and Venezuela.

Orinoco crocodile are listed as critically endangered by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN). There are estimated to between 250 and 1,500 left in their native habitat. This species was initially saved from extinction by Venezuelan ranchers who began breeding and protecting them on private lands. Programs to introduce individuals born in human care to their native habitat have been underway in Venezuela and are taking off in Colombia.

Only two facilities in the United States are participating in breeding Orinoco crocodile—the Dallas World Aquarium in Dallas, Texas and the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. Roberta was hatched at Dallas World Aquarium where she lived with her seventeen sisters. The intent was to release these girls on protected lands in Venezuela but a change in political climate impeded that plan.

Roberta was moved to the CCCF, a non-profit organization which provides temporary habitats for endangered crocodilian. CCCF’s Crocodile specialist, Bruce Shwedick coordinated with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to include Roberta in their Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the critically endangered Orinoco crocodile.

When our facility was contacted about providing a home for Roberta, we knew just the habitat she could call home! Bruce worked diligently to make the necessary upgrades to suit the needs of an Orinoco crocodile. He was able to create a home for Roberta which mimics her native environment of Venezuela and Colombia.

Our continued relationships with the Dallas World Aquarium, CCCF and AZA will allow us to work to bring healthy populations of these beautiful crocodiles back to their native habitats in Colombia and Venezuela. As part of the SSP, Roberta may eventually be moved to another facility where she can be paired with a male with the intent of having releasable offspring.

We may be a temporary home for Roberta, but we’re honored to be one stop on her journey as a species ambassador and contributor to conservation. You definitely won’t want to miss your chance to catch a glimpse of this extremely rare crocodile at the Central Florida Zoo!

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