Baby crocs hatch­ing on Proser­pine River

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

THE Proser­pine River’s crocodile nurs­ery has come alive, with the first of this sea­son’s hatch­lings ar­riv­ing last month.

Whit­sun­day Crocodile Sa­fari tour man­ager, Steve Wat­son said sig­nif­i­cant flood­ing in 2011 re­sulted in only a few nests pro­duc­ing ba­bies that year, al­though num­bers had in­creased since then.

This year, Mr Wat­son said two or three nests had hatched 20 to 30 ba­bies each.

He said his team iden­ti­fied one nest early in the sea­son, “and then all of a sud­den, hatch­lings started to ap­pear all along the river where we op­er­ate”.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Wat­son, it is com­mon for the eggs in a nest to hatch within a few days of each other and for the fe­male crocodile to re­main nearby, for the pur­pose of keep­ing an eye on the nest and pro­tect­ing it from preda­tors.

“Baby crocs call to their mother when they be­gin to emerge from their eggs and she will some­times help them to es­cape by re­mov­ing veg­e­ta­tion from the nest mound and even tak­ing the egg in her mouth and rolling it on her tongue to crack it”, he said.

Mr Wat­son said a crocodile mother’s pro­tec­tion was nonethe­less, short-lived, to just a few weeks.

“Af­ter a few weeks, the ma­ter­nal switch in the mother’s brain turns off and her young are left to fend for them­selves,” he said.

Sta­tis­ti­cally, the chances of croc­o­diles sur­viv­ing to adult­hood are very small, with only two out of ev­ery 200 hatch­lings grow­ing to full size.

Mr Wat­son said there were a num­ber of preda­tors which put small croc­o­diles at risk, but na­ture had a way of en­sur­ing the bal­ance was main­tained.

He said guests on the Crocodile Sa­fari got a real “buzz” from see­ing the hatch­lings in the wild.

“Af­ter 14 years op­er­at­ing the sa­fari, I am still amazed at the nat­u­ral cy­cle of life here on the river”, he said.

“It’s a priv­i­lege for me to be able to share these ex­pe­ri­ences with vis­i­tors on our sa­fari and the baby croc­o­diles are the stars of the show.”

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