Since my first visit to St. Lucia in the early 1980’s, the one highlight has always been a walk through the crocodile centre they have there. Crocodiles can be so scary to us as they seems very large and dangerous but it is interesting to find out more about them. They also have other reptiles and species of crocodile besides the Nile Croc. Featured as well are wonderful, informative exhibitions on the Lake St. Lucia system of sea, beach, dune forests and grasslands.They are open every day of the year except Christmas and New Year’s day. Crocodile feeding for public demonstration takes place on Saturday afternoons at 15h00 (weather permitting) as well as on Wednesday evenings at 18h30. The evening feeding is only during the summer months.
Crocodiles have been on earth since the era of the dinosaurs. In captivity they can live to be 100 years old but in the wild, are estimated to achieve half that age. In reality, only about 2% of those hatched live to become adults through predation of the eggs by mongoose and monitor lizards while the hatchlings are eaten by storks, eagles and even adult crocodiles. Their only natural enemy as adults are humans.
The male crocodile will set up and defend an area against other males while the females are free to enter. When looking for a mate, the male will go through a curious courtship “dance” during which he bites the water and blows bubbles through his nose.
They can only mate in the water and when ready to lay her eggs, the female will dig a trench about 45cm deep with her back legs and lay between 20-70 eggs. Incubation of them is 90 days and when they hatch, she picks them up in her mouth using a pouch under the chin in order to carry them down to the water. She then protects them for a further 90 days.
Determination of the sex in the embryo is influenced by outside temperature when incubating. Warmer weather is conducive to more female than male young being hatched.
Body temperature is controlled through a membrane in the mouth. If they are seen laying with their mouths open, they are cooling themselves by allowing mucus fluids to evaporate.