Unique Crocodile Species Hatches at Zoo Miami
December 07, 2017
A False Gavial has hatched at Zoo Miami! This is the Zoo’s first successful hatching, in over 25 years, of this very unique species of crocodile from Indonesia and Malaysia.
After an incubation period of 89 days, at a temperature of 89 degrees, the baby hatched on September 1st and was one of two hatchlings that emerged from a clutch of 25 eggs. Unfortunately, the second hatchling did not survive.
The parents are 45-year-old male, Lockjaw, and 31- year-old female, Nessi. At 14 feet long, Lockjaw is the largest crocodile at the zoo, while Nessi is a bit smaller at 9 feet long.
The False Gavial's numbers are low in the wild (less than 2,500). As late as the year 2000, they were classified by the IUCN as “Endangered”. The species was reassessed in 2011, and they are now at the status of “Vulnerable”. However, they are still threatened by habitat destruction, overfishing of food sources and, to a limited extent, the skin trade.
The False Gavial (Tomistoma schlegelii), also known as False Gharial, Malayan Gharial, Sunda Gharial and Tomistoma, is a freshwater crocodile that is native to Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra and Java.
The specific name “schlegelii” honors the German herpetologist, Hermann Schlegel.
The False Gavial has one of the slimmest snouts of any living crocodilian, comparable to the slender-snouted crocodile and the freshwater crocodile. The False Gavial measures slightly smaller than the Gavial.
Until recently, very little was known about the diet or behavior of the species in the wild. In the past, it was thought to have a diet of only fish and very small vertebrates. But more recent evidence and observation indicates that it has a generalist diet despite its narrow snout. In addition to fish and smaller aquatic animals, mature adults prey on larger vertebrates, including proboscis monkeys, long-tailed macaques, deer, water birds, and reptiles.
False Gavials are mound-nesters. In the wild, females lay small clutches of 13 to 35 eggs per nest, and appear to produce the largest eggs of extant crocodilians.
It is not known when they breed in the wild or when the nesting season is. Once the eggs are laid, and construction of the mound is completed, the female abandons her nest. Unlike most other crocodiles, the young receive no parental care and are at risk of being eaten by predators. The young hatch after 90 days and are left to fend for themselves.
The False Gavial is threatened with extinction throughout most of its range due to the drainage of its freshwater swamplands and clearance of surrounding rainforests. The species is also hunted frequently for its skin and meat, and the eggs are often harvested for human consumption.