Seoul Zoo breeds endangered saltwater crocodiles

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Seoul Zoo breeds endangered saltwater crocodiles


A worker from the Seoul Zoo unveils three baby saltwater crocodiles to the public yesterday at the zoo’s South American section in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi, just outside Seoul. The zoo has succeeded for the first time in Korea to breed the endangered saltwater crocodiles through artificial incubation. [YONHAP]

The Seoul Zoo has succeeded for the first time in breeding through artificial incubation endangered saltwater crocodiles, the largest of all reptiles.

These three baby crocodiles were revealed to the public for the first time yesterday at the zoo’s South American section in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi, just outside Seoul.

Currently, these 3-month old hatchlings on average are 38.5 centimeters (15.16 inches) long and weigh 135 grams (4.7 ounces), but an adult saltwater can grow to over 6 meters (19.6 feet) and weigh over 1 ton. In order to boost the saltwater crocodile population in the country, the Seoul Zoo, which is the tenth largest zoo in the world, since March has attempted to improve the living environment of the crocodiles to encourage spawning and provide shelters that reduce stress they may receive from zoo attendees.

These crocodiles, found in northern Australia, southeastern Asia and eastern Africa, usually in deep, murky water, are known for their ferocious, predatory dispositions and are able to swallow a shark of their size.

Because saltwater crocodiles’ skin is considered very valuable, they are hunted for their hides, which contributed to their dwindling numbers several decades ago.

Saltwater crocodiles are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) Appendix I and the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.

On May 13, one female saltwater crocodile at the Seoul Zoo laid 15 eggs, and three days later another laid 23 more eggs. Because the nesting habitat was not ideal in terms of temperature or humidity for hatching, the zookeepers moved the eggs to incubators, maintaining a temperature of 31.6 degrees Celsius (88.9 Fahrenheit) and humidity level of 95 percent.

In mid-August, three speckled white eggs, the size of a hand, hatched. When first hatched, the baby crocodiles were 28.5 centimeters long and weighed 80 grams but can grow to a meter long by their first year. The species live between 65-100 years.

Previously, there were 14 saltwater crocodiles in the country located in three zoos, including four at the Seoul Zoo. These baby crocs, grayish and covered in black specks, are named Ssingssingi, Ssukssuki and Ssakssaki, onomatopoeic adjectives indicating the sound of wind blowing, growing rapidly and rubbing hands.

“Because there were no cases in the country to go by, we had to refer to cases with Siamese crocodiles that share a similar ecological nature with saltwater crocodiles, which turned out successful,” said Shin Sung-hwa, a Seoul Zoo breeder.

By Sarah Kim []
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