NILE CROCODILE
"CROCODYLUS NILOTICUS" (scientific name)

Crocodile

Size 6,2 m from head to tip of tail
Weight 225 kg - 730 kg
Lifespan 45 years in the wild
80 years in captivity
Habitat Rivers, lakes, waterholes, swamps
Diet Carnivorous
Gestation Female lays eggs - 80 to 90 days to hatch
Predators Other Crocodiles and Humans


HABITAT

Nile Crocodiles is found throughout most of Africa. They can be found in waterholes, mangrove swamps, lakes and rivers. During the wet season they travel long distances on land, returning when the floodwaters subside.

CHARACTERISTICS

The Nile Crocodile is the largest of the four crocodile species found in South Africa. They have a maximum length of 6,2 m from head to tip of the tail and weighs about 225 kg and can reach weights of up to 730 kg. Their snout is long and broad and ends in nostrils that can close underwater. Their eyes have a third eyelid which protect them while underwater. Their eyes, ears and nostril are found on the same plane on the top of the head, allowing the crocodile to be completely submerged underwater. The Nile Crocodile has short, squat legs that end in sharp claws, with a long tail and great vision. They have a high walk and swim with their tails but their hind feet are webbed and can be used to submerge quickly. The skin is rough and waterproof and prevents dehydration and loss of body salt. Their back and tail are covered in rows of knobs. They also have a special throat pouch that allows them to eat underwater. Their pupils are vertical slits that widen at night. They are cold blooded and rely on the sun for heat.


BEHAVIOUR

Crocodiles are not solitary predators but social creatures. The males also respond to distress calls of their young. Nile Crocodiles produce at least six different vocal signals. Both male and female Crocodiles maintain territories, especially during breeding season. During the day they can be found basking along riverbanks with their mouths open. Egyptian plovers enter their mouths to clean their teeth. They will all work together to dig tunnels and cool down.


DIET

Their diet varies with age. The juveniles eat frogs, spiders, snakes, insects, lizards and other small animals. Mature Crocodiles prey on antelope, warthogs, large animals, zebras and human beings but they mainly feed on fish. They grab the animal at the edge of the water, drag them underwater and drown them. They will also eat other crocodiles and carrion. Nile Crocodiles eat the entire animal, including the bones. They will often scavenge form carcasses. When feeding, a number of individuals will hold onto a carcass with their powerful jaws whilst twisting their bodies that allows large chinks to be torn off for easier swallowing.


BREEDING

Crocodile baby

Males become sexually mature at 3 m and 10 years of age and the females at 2 m and 10 years of age. Male Crocodiles defend their territories during breeding season by roaring and constantly patrolling the borders. The female digs a hole up to 50cm deep in sandy banks (soft soil) several meters form the water. She lays about 40 – 60 eggs and covers them with soil. Females remain near the nest at all times for a period of 3 months not even leaving to eat while the eggs develop in the underground nest. The hatchlings call to their mother from inside their eggs when they are ready to hatch. Both males and females assist hatching by gently cracking and open the eggs between their tongue and upper palate. They are then carried to the water in her huge jaw. Hatchlings are 30 cm long and are dark olive green with darker cross bandings on the body and tail. She continues to guard them for another 6 months. A group of baby crocodiles are called a crèche.

Crocodile hatchlings

PREDATORS

Nile Crocodiles are prey for other Nile Crocodiles and humans and the young are prey for herons, ibises, catfish, lizards, marabou storks and turtles.

Crocodiles

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