I love doing sciencey road trips with my team when I can. Last week, we got a treat: four of us got a behind-the-scenes tour of the fairly new Crocodiles of the World facility near Oxford; just over 90 minutes west of our lab, nestled in the pictureseque Cotswolds region. We were not disappointed, so you get to share in the joy! In photo-blog format. Pics can be clicked to emcrocken.
In the midst of an unpreposessing industrial estate lies: AWESOME!
If you want to bone up on your croc species, go here and here. I won’t go into details. This is an eye candy post!
Reasonably accurate description that caught my eye. My scientific interest in crocodiles starts here, and with their anatomy/relationship with dinosaurs, but I’ve loved crocs since I was an infant (one of my first words, as I may have written here before, was “dock-a-dile”, for my favourite stuffed animal at the time [R.I.P.]).
Siamese crocodiles. The large male is “Hugo.” They were apart when we entered, then got snuggly later, as I’ve often seen this species do. Heavily endangered (<300 in the wild?), so any breeding is a good thing!
The above photo brings me to one of my general points. Crocodiles of the World seems genuinely to be a centre that is breeding crocodiles for conservation purposes (and for education, entertainment and other zoo-like stuff). Essentially every crocodile enclosure had a mated pair, and several were breeding. Such as…
Yes, that is a Dwarf African crocodile, Osteolaemus, and indeed it is a female on her nest-mound. Which means…
Eggs of said Osteolaemus.
And babies of said Osteolaemus! As if the adults aren’t cute enough with their short snouts and doglike size/appearance! These guys have striking yellow colouration, too. I’d never seen it in person before.
That’s not all!
Male American Alligator “Albert” warming up. Smaller female partner “Daisy” lives in same enclosure. Plenty of babies from these guys, too! Daisy comes when called by name, and Albert is learning to do so.
~1 meter long juvenile Nile crocodiles, bred at the facility.
But then crocodile morphological diversity (colours, textures) and behaviour is just too cool not to focus on a bit, so here are some highlights from our visit!
Endearing shot of a crocodylian I seldom get to see anywhere: Paleosuchus trigonatus, the Schneider’s Dwarf Caiman. Spiny armoured hide and quite terrestrial; poorly known in many ways. Some more info is here (note its tortured taxonomy)
Black caiman, Melanosuchus niger, showing some interest in us.
Cuban crocodiles (Crocodylus rhombifer; pound for pound the most badass croc in my experience; badassitude that this photo captures nicely) cooling off by exposing the well-vascularized soft tissues of the mouth region.
But it’s not just crocs there, either, and some of the highlights were non-croc surprises and memorable encounters:
A surprisingly friendly and tame Water monitor (14 yrs old; does kids parties). Note person for scale. Was about 2 meters long, 20 kg or so.
Business end of nice Water monitor, with tongue engaged.
And we got a nice farewell from an African spur-thigh tortoise (Geochelone sulcata) with an oral fixation (action sequence thereof):
If someone visits this facility and leaves without being converted to a croc-lover, they must be from a different planet than me. It is a celebration of crocodiles; the owner, Shaun Foggett, is the real deal. He sold his home and quit his job as a carpenter to care for crocodiles, and it seems to be a great success– about to get greater, as they have plans to move to a new, bigger, proper site! They are seeking funding, so if you can contribute go here.
Right then… UK residents and visitors: you need to go here! Badly! Get off the blog and go now. If it is a Saturday/Sunday (the cramped industrial estate location only allows the public then).
Otherwise just stew and imagine how much fun you could be having checking out crocodiles. I cruelly posted this on a Tuesday to ensure thorough marination of any croc-geeks.