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Nile crocodiles, like all reptiles, regulate their body temperature by using the surrounding environment. They will often spend the whole day basking on riverbanks in the sun for heat. If they get too hot, they might gape to release heat through their mouths, or slide back into the water. In northern Madagascar, a few of these creatures spend the dry season in tsingy caves. Outside this island-nation, Nile crocodiles are not known to live in caves.
A Nile crocodile mainly eats large fish. Like all crocodilians, they are ambush predators, waiting silently until their prey approaches, then lunging out for the attack. Their jaws exert more than 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, easily breaking bones as the teeth tear through flesh. Very large Nile crocodiles in Africa have been known to eat antelope, zebra, domestic animals, and humans. However, on the island of Madagascar, turtles and lemurs are more regular meals along with a steady diet of fish.
Female Nile crocodiles build their nests in holes near a riverbank, but far enough away to prevent flooding. In August and September, they lay between 50 and 60 eggs. In November, 10-inch-long hatchlings emerge from the eggs. Their mother protects them until they are larger and less vulnerable to predation. Male crocodiles will sometimes guard the nest as well, though the fathers are usually not involved in parental care. Newborn hatchlings survive on the remnants of their yolk sac; once it’s finished, they are off on their own to hunt insects and small fish. The mother helps the hatchlings on their way by carrying them in her mouth from the nest to the water’s edge. Juvenile crocodiles can grow more than 12 inches per year. They can live for approximately 45 years in the wild, but nearly double that in captivity.
Some of My Neighbors
Brown Lemurs, Malagasy Killifish, Eels, Scorpions, Bats
Population Status & Threats
The Nile crocodile is considered a species of least concern, though it may be threatened in parts of its range. The commercial sale of its skin nearly exterminated the crocodile in Madagascar. It has been extensively hunted for its skin elsewhere as well. Other threats include habitat loss and entanglement in fishermen’s nets that can cause drowning.
WCS Conservation Efforts
As WCS-Madagascar field staff helps local communities develop plans to protect natural resources, it makes sure to respect and uphold traditional cultural beliefs, such as those surrounding crocodiles.
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