Late last month, an exciting package arrived at Adventure Aquarium in the form of two, 7-foot Orinoco Crocodiles. The reptiles – both female – quickly acclimated to their new surroundings and have been thriving in their new home (Mighty Mike’s former digs!).
With their piercing green eyes and elongated snouts, it would seem easy to pass these crocodiles off as yet another cool animal to meet during a visit. But in reality, these reptiles are far from ordinary. They are a critically endangered species whose numbers dwindled so considerably in the last century that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has estimated their wild population at only 250-1,500. It’s also rare to see them in zoos and aquariums. Their presence at Adventure Aquarium marks the first time they have been exhibited in the Northeast.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to bring Orinocos to the region,” said Marc Kind, Adventure Aquarium’s Husbandry Director. “It’s amazing for our guests to be able to get this close – literally face to face – with such an incredible animal.”
Our two newest additions hail from Dallas World Aquarium (DWA), a leader in the conservation of Orinoco Crocodiles. Because of extensive hunting for their skins in the 19th and 20th century, literally thousands of these animals were slaughtered, forcing the species to come very close to extinction. In the 1970’s, the Orinioco was given protected status, but the road to recovery has been slow. In addition to hunting for its hide, more recent threats also include the collection of juveniles for sale in the live animal trade, pollution, and the proposal of a dam in the upper Orinoco River region.
Thankfully, in 1997 DWA launched a breeding program in cooperation with the Venezuelan government. Because of DWA’s and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) efforts, over 100 Orinocos have hatched since 2003. To date, 55 have since been returned to South America.
The pale, tan Orinioco represents one of the world’s largest living reptiles, and is both the largest crocodile species and biggest predator in South America, with males averaging 13 feet. They inhabit freshwater environments, with the majority of living along the Orinoco River, South America’s third-largest river. Flowing 1,300 miles from Venezuela to the Atlantic Ocean, the Orinoco River is home to a plethora of fascinating creatures, including the Amazon River Dolphin, Giant River Otter and the Green Anaconda.
During a visit, guests will be able to meet these unique animals in the new “Crocodile River” exhibit in Zone A.