Baby crocs hatching on Proserpine River
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.”