The Orinoco crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius) is one of the most endangered species. The population is so small that it lives in the wild only in Colombia and Venezuela, in the Orinoco River and its tributaries.
They were seemingly actively hunted in the 19th and 20th for their hide, which led to almost complete extinction. The biology of the Orinoco crocodile is poorly documented in the wild, mainly due to its small population. According to various sources, there are only 500-1000 of them left in the wild.
Description of the species
The Orinoco crocodile can be recognized by its relatively long muzzle, which is narrower than that of a somewhat similar American crocodile.
This species has a light brown skin, although at least three color variations are known, some of which are almost entirely yellow and others are dark brownish gray.
Skin can change color over time: This phenomenon has been reported in other species, which can gradually change the amount of melanin in their skin.
These crocodiles have dark brown markings, which appear as more pronounced stripes in juveniles and scattered markings in adults.
One of the largest species in America. Males can reach over 5 meters in length and weigh up to 380 kg. Females are much smaller and rarely exceed 3 meters and 195 kg.
The largest historically recorded specimen was shot in 1800 and is believed to be 6.78 m long.
On the back there are keratinized scales, which are arranged in symmetrical rows. The tail is muscular, laterally compressed and tapering towards the end.
The hind feet have 4 toes, which are connected by a swimming membrane. Front - 5 fingers.
On average, they have 68 large teeth. The fourth tooth in 2 sides on the lower jaw is larger than the rest.
Life span: 70-80 years.
This species is confined to the Orinoco River Basin in Colombia and Venezuela. They were reported from time to time on the island of Trinidad, but this was not confirmed, and witnesses may have mistaken the American crocodile for a rarer species.
This crocodile was once thought to inhabit a variety of coastal habitats, from rainforests to streams in the foothills of the Andes. Today this species is limited to the savannah of Llanos and the rivers associated with it.
They prefer to live in freshwater reservoirs, but they also tolerate salt water well.
Puberty occurs at the age of 7-8 years. In the mating season, males emit a dull roar, claiming their rights to the territory and tying females.
Mating games: the couple rubs against each other, hisses and blows bubbles. Boys vibrate their torso to impress their partner. Mating occurs quickly, within 3-5 minutes, in water.
During the dry season, females build nests (January-February). The clutch contains from 15 to 70 eggs. On average, no more than 40, weighing up to 135 kg. The masonry is treated with a mucous substance that hardens and prevents the development of pathogenic microflora. And then he buries in with his front paws.
Despite the fact that the mother protects the nest, this does not protect the cubs from predators. Large lizards and vultures do not mind eating eggs.
The incubation period is 70 days and hatching occurs at the beginning of the rainy season. Cubs begin to squeak, this is a sign for the mother. She digs out the nest. The female in her mouth transfers the offspring to the water, where they are more protected than on land.
The mother takes care of the young for the first 1-3 years. Having left the family nest, young individuals are looking for a new home in calm water with abundant vegetation.
In captivity, the female was observed to help feed. She not only brings the hunted game, but also dismembers it into small pieces.
What does the Orinox crocodile eat?
Can determine the location of the victim within a radius of 300 meters.
The nutritional biology of Orinoco crocodiles is little understood, but according to eyewitness accounts and partial studies conducted in captivity and on crocodile farms, most of the Orinoco's diet consists of large fish.
Young individuals prefer crabs, insects, snails and other small animals. Land mammals and birds that approach the water are another tasty meal. Will not refuse to feast on turtles and snakes.
He tries to knock down large animals with a powerful blow of the tail, then he grabs and drags them under the water. To attract fish we regurgitate an oily liquid, a kind of bait.
Large adult terrestrial prey can include monkeys, deer, birds, reptiles, lost pets (horses and cattle), and sometimes other predators, if the opportunity presents itself.
Like many crocodiles, it catches and eats smaller species of crocodiles, such as adult common caimans, and sometimes individuals of its own kind.
Features of behavior and character
Adults prefer to lead a solitary lifestyle. Aggressively disposed towards congeners and other crocodiles. They attack without hesitation if someone inadvertently entered their territory.
They become more good-natured during a drought, when they hide in holes, where at least some moisture still remains. If necessary, they can dig holes on their own.
One of the few crocodile species that tolerate salt and mixed waters well, where they are often thrown during floods. Some individuals on small islands of land are carried out into the open sea, with the tide they return back.
For reptiles - they move well on the ground. They can move at a brisk pace or gallop, but without urgent need they rarely move more than 1 km from their home.
Males often spend a lot of time sorting out relations with each other, fighting for territory and females.
During swimming, the limbs are pressed to themselves, taking a spindle-shaped position. Waving its tail in different directions, it moves forward.
At shallow depths, they prefer to swim using their hind legs, which are moved alternately.
Relationship with a person
Attacks on humans have been reported, but this is unlikely to be common today, given the species' very small population and its relative isolation from large settlements.
A small number of documented fatal attacks were recorded in the 1900s and 1930s, when the species was not yet on the brink of extinction.
Number one is the man who hunts for meat, hides, and young cattle for sale to farms.
In the wild, the greatest threat to babies. It comes from snakes, foxes and hawks. From the age of 1 year, other animals can no longer harm them.
It is at this age that special ones born in captivity are released into their natural habitat, to replenish the species.
Communication with each other
The Orinoco crocodile uses a variety of sounds and signals. May emit a deep, guttural roar similar to snoring. Produce with an open mouth and a tilted head at 30 °. Repeat it 3-6 times over water.
It will be heard at a distance of 200-300 m. It is used during the mating season to attract females and clearly define boundaries.
If a competitor has come to the site, they can use a grunt, similar to a short grunt. In addition, they hiss, thus saying: "Leave my house, otherwise it will be worse." Another frightening sound is the clicking of teeth, it is clearly audible within a radius of 35 meters.
Hissing is often used by females to protect their offspring. They can also express their emotions under water, then many bubbles form on the surface.
Youngsters make shrill and repetitive sounds, calling on their mother for help. Using a calmer tone to show uninvited guests that Mom is around.
They react aggressively to the threat, making sharp lateral movements with their tail.
Females can draw in a lot of air, visually increasing in size. Another way to scare off strangers.
This species is under great threat of extinction due to excessive hunting for its skin. Between the 1940s and 1960s, thousands of these animals were killed in the Orinoco River and the wetlands of Llanos, and the species was very close to extinction.
The Orinoco crocodile was granted protected status in the 1970s, but has not yet recovered. Today it is guarded in both Colombia and Venezuela.
In addition to skin hunting, recent threats include the collection of juveniles for sale in the livestock trade, environmental pollution and the construction of a dam in the upper Orinoco River region.
Another problem is the growing population of spectacled caimans, a smaller crocodile that actively takes food from the Orinox crocodile due to a much larger population and higher breeding rates.
It is unclear how many remain in the wild, but estimates range from 250 to 1,500 individuals.
The largest part inhabits Venezuela, where less than 500 adults remain.
Large numbers are kept in captive breeding centers. Since the early 1990s, many small crocodiles have been released both on private ranches and in Venezuela's national parks.
Although captive breeding programs continue today, many suffer from a lack of funds or personnel, and conflicts between private and public institutions.
It grows quickly, however, at the same time it is very voracious. Therefore, you need to feed the Orino catfish often, using frozen, dry or live food (for example, fillet pieces of fish or meat) as food for the fish.
Maintenance and care
It is worth keeping a red-tailed catfish separately or with larger fish in a dim, spacious aquarium (more than 300 liters), observing a temperature regime from 22 ° C to 26 ° C with a water hardness of no more than pH 7.0. In addition, to keep Orinox catfish, it is necessary to ensure proper aeration in the aquarium, create a good filter system and periodically (about once a week) change the water (no more than 1/5 of the total volume). Also, the aquarist should abandon the decorative elements in the aquarium, since the catfish can easily break glass with their help.
It is currently impossible to breed Orinox catfish in an amateur aquarium due to the lack of study of this issue.