Nile crocodile

The Nile crocodile is one of the most dangerous reptiles. On account of his countless human victims. This reptile has been terrifying the living creatures around it for many centuries. It is not surprising, because this species is the largest among the other two living in Africa. It is second in size only to the combed crocodile.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Nile Crocodile

Photo: Nile crocodile

This subspecies is the most common member of its genus. The mention of these animals originates in the history of Ancient Egypt, but there are theories that crocodiles inhabited the Earth even in the time of dinosaurs. The name should not be misleading, because it inhabits not only the Nile River, but also other water bodies of Africa and neighboring countries.

Video: Nile crocodile

The species Crocodylus niloticus belongs to the genus Real crocodiles of the Crocodile family. There are several unofficial subspecies whose DNA analyzes have shown some differences, due to which populations may have genetic divergences. They do not have a generally recognized status and can only be judged by differences in size, which may be due to habitat:

  • South African;
  • West African;
  • East African;
  • Ethiopian;
  • Central African;
  • Malagasy;
  • Kenyan.

More people died from the teeth of this subspecies than from all other reptiles. Every year, the Nile cannibals kill several hundred people. However, this does not prevent the natives of Madagascar from considering the reptile sacred, worshiping it and organizing religious holidays in their honor, sacrificing pets.

Appearance and features

Photo: Nile crocodile reptiles

Photo: Nile crocodile reptiles

The length of the body of individuals, together with the tail, reaches 5-6 meters. But sizes can vary depending on the habitat. With a length of 4-5 meters, the weight of reptiles reaches 700-800 kilograms. If the body is longer than 6 meters, then the mass can fluctuate within a ton.

The structure of the body is built in such a way that hunting in the water is most effective for crocodiles. A powerful and large tail helps to move quickly and push off the bottom in such a way as to make jumps over distances far exceeding the length of the crocodile’s body.

The body of the reptile is flattened, there are wide membranes on the short hind legs, and scaly armor on the back. The head is elongated, in its upper part there are green eyes, nostrils and ears, which can remain on the surface while the rest of the body is submerged under water. There is a third eyelid on the eyes to clean them.

The skin of young individuals is greenish in color, with black spots on the sides and back, and yellowish on the belly and neck. With age, the color becomes darker – from green to mustard. Also on the skin there are receptors that capture the slightest water vibrations. The crocodile hears and recognizes smells much better than it sees.

Reptiles can stay under water for up to half an hour. This is due to the ability of the heart to block the flow of blood to the lungs. Instead, it enters the brain and other important life-support organs. Reptiles swim at a speed of 30-35 kilometers per hour, and move on land no faster than 14 kilometers per hour.

Thanks to a leathery growth in the throat, which prevents water from entering the lungs, Nile crocodiles can open their mouths underwater. Their metabolism is so slow that reptiles can not eat for more than a dozen days. But when they are really hungry, they can eat up to half their own weight.

Where does the Nile crocodile live?

Photo: Nile crocodile in water

Photo: Nile crocodile in water

Crocodylus niloticus live in the waters of Africa, on the island of Madagascar, where they have adapted to life in caves, in the Comoros and Seychelles. The habitat extends south of the Sahara, in Mauritius, Principe, Morocco, Cape Verde, Socotra Island, Zanzibar.

The fossil remains found make it possible to judge that in the old days this species was distributed in more northern territories: in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Algeria, Libya, Jordan, the Comoros, and not so long ago completely disappeared from the borders of Israel. In Palestine, a small number lives in a single place – the Crocodile River.

The habitat is reduced to freshwater or slightly salty rivers, lakes, reservoirs, swamps, and can be found in mangrove forests. They prefer reptile calm waters with sandy shores. You can meet an individual far from the water only if the reptile is looking for a new habitat due to the drying up of the previous one.

In isolated cases, Nile crocodiles were found several kilometers from the coast in the open sea. Although such activities are not typical of this species, movement in salt water has allowed the reptiles to spread and multiply to small populations on some islands.

What does the Nile crocodile eat?

Photo: Nile crocodile Red Book

Photo: Nile crocodile Red Book

These reptiles have a fairly varied diet. Juveniles mainly eat insects, crustaceans, frogs, and molluscs. Adult crocodiles need food much less frequently. Growing reptiles gradually switch to small fish and other inhabitants of water bodies – otters, mongooses, reed rats.

70% of the food of reptiles consists of fish, the remaining percentages are animals that came to the watering place.

It could be:

  • zebras;
  • buffaloes;
  • giraffes;
  • rhinos;
  • wildebeest;
  • hares;
  • birds;
  • cats;
  • monkeys;
  • other crocodiles.

They drive amphibians to the shore with powerful movements of the tail, creating vibrations, and then easily catch them in shallow water. Reptiles can line up against the current and freeze in anticipation of passing by spawning mullet and striped mullet. Adults prey on Nile perch, tilapia, catfish and even small sharks.

Also, reptiles can take food from lions, leopards. The largest individuals attack buffaloes, hippos, zebras, giraffes, elephants, brown hyenas, and rhino cubs. Crocodiles absorb food at every opportunity. Only the females, who guard their eggs, eat little.

They drag the prey under the water and wait for it to choke. When the victim ceases to show signs of life, the reptiles tear it to pieces. If the food was obtained jointly, they coordinate efforts to share it. Crocodiles can push their prey under stones or driftwood to make it easier to tear it apart.

Peculiarities of character and lifestyle

Photo: Great Nile crocodile

Photo: Great Nile crocodile

Most of the crocodiles during the day it is located in the sun to increase body temperature. To avoid overheating, they keep their mouths open. There are cases when poachers tied the mouths of caught reptiles and left them in the sun. This caused the animals to die.

If the Nile crocodile abruptly closed its mouth, this serves as a signal to its relatives that danger is nearby. By nature, this species is very aggressive and does not tolerate strangers in its territory. At the same time, they can get along peacefully with individuals of their own species, rest and hunt together.

In cloudy and rainy weather, they spend almost all the time in the water. In areas with unstable weather conditions, drought or sudden cold snaps, crocodiles can dig niches in the sand and hibernate for the whole summer. To establish thermoregulation, the largest individuals go out to bask in the sun.

Thanks to their camouflage coloration, supersensitive receptors and natural power, they are excellent hunters. A sharp and sudden attack does not give the victim time to come to his senses, and powerful jaws leave no chance of survival. On land for hunting, they go no further than 50 m. There they wait for animals along forest paths.

With some birds, Nile crocodiles have a mutually beneficial relationship. Reptiles open their mouths wide while spurred lapwings or, for example, Egyptian runners pick out stuck pieces of food from their teeth. Female crocodiles and hippos coexist peacefully, leaving offspring on top of each other to protect themselves from felines or hyenas.

Social Structure and Reproduction

Photo: Baby Nile Crocodile

Photo: Baby Nile Crocodile

Puberty reptiles reach the age of ten. By this time, their length reaches 2-2.5 meters. During the mating season, males slap their muzzles on the water and roar loudly, attracting the attention of females. Those, in turn, choose larger males.

In the northern latitudes, the onset of this period falls in the summer, in the south it is November-December. Hierarchical relations are built between males. Everyone tries to show their superiority over the opponent. Males growl, exhale noisily, blow bubbles with their mouths. Females at this time excitedly flap their tails on the water.

The defeated male quickly swims away from the competitor, admitting his defeat. If it is not possible to escape, the loser raises his face up, showing that he is giving up. The winner sometimes grabs the vanquished by the paw, but does not bite. Such battles help drive extra individuals away from the territory of the existing pair.

Females lay eggs on sandy beaches and river banks. Not far from the water, the female digs a nest about 60 centimeters deep and lays 55-60 eggs there (the number can vary from 20 to 95 pieces). She does not let anyone near the masonry for about 90 days.

During this period, the male can help her, scaring away strangers. At a time when the female is forced to leave the clutch due to the heat, nests can be destroyed by mongooses, people or hyenas. Sometimes eggs are carried away by floods. On average, 10-15% of the eggs survive until the end of the term.

When the incubation period ends, the babies make grunting sounds, which serves as a signal for the mother to dig out the nest. Sometimes she helps the young hatch by rolling the eggs in her mouth. She takes the newborn crocodiles to the pond.

The natural enemies of the Nile crocodiles

Photo: Nile Crocodile

Photo: Nile Crocodile

Adults have practically no enemies in nature. Crocodiles can die prematurely only from larger representatives of their species, large animals like lions and leopards, or from human hands. The eggs they lay or their newborns are more susceptible to attacks.

Nest thieves can be:

  • mongooses;
  • birds of prey like eagles, buzzards or vultures;
  • lizards;
  • pelicans.

Babies left unattended are hunted by:

    • felines;
    • lizards;
    • baboons;
    • boars;
    • Goliath herons;
    • sharks;

turtles.

In many countries where there is a sufficient number of individuals, hunting for Nile crocodiles is allowed. Poachers leave rotten animal carcasses on the shore as bait. Not far from this place, a hut is set up and the hunter waits motionlessly for the reptile to bite on the bait.

Poachers have to lie still all the time, because in places where hunting is allowed, crocodiles are especially careful. The hut is placed 80 meters from the bait. Reptiles can also pay attention to the unusual behavior of birds that see a person.

Reptiles show interest in the bait throughout the day, unlike other predators. Attempts to kill poachers are carried out only on crocodiles that have completely crawled out of the water. The hit must be as accurate as possible, because if the animal manages to reach the water before it dies, it will be very difficult to get it out.

Population and species status

Photo: Nile crocodile reptiles

Photo: Nile crocodile reptiles

In the years 1940-1960, Nile crocodiles were actively hunted because of the high quality of their skin, edible meat, and also in Asian medicine, the internal organs of reptiles were considered endowed with healing properties. This led to a significant decrease in their numbers. The average life expectancy of reptiles is 40 years, some individuals live up to 80.

Between 1950 and 1980, according to unofficial estimates, about 3 million skins of Nile crocodiles were killed and sold. In some areas of Kenya, giant reptiles were caught with nets. However, the remaining number allowed the reptiles to be designated Least Concern.

Currently, there are 250-500 thousand individuals of this species in nature. In the countries of southern and eastern Africa, the number of individuals is controlled and documented. In western and central Africa, the situation is somewhat worse. Due to insufficient attention, the population in these places has been significantly reduced.

Bad living conditions and competition with narrow-nosed and blunt-nosed crocodile provoke the threat of extinction of the species. Reducing the area of ​​swamps is also a negative factor for existence. To eliminate these problems, it is necessary to develop additional environmental programs.

Nile Crocodile Conservation

Photo: Red Book Nile crocodile

Photo: Nile crocodile from the Red Book

The species is listed in the Red Book of the World Conservation Union and is listed in the category of minimal risk. Nile crocodiles are listed in Appendix I Cites, trade in live specimens or their skins is regulated by an international convention. Thanks to national laws to ban the supply of crocodile skin, their numbers have increased slightly.

In order to breed reptiles, the so-called crocodile farms or ranches are successfully operating. But mostly they exist to obtain the skin of animals. Nile crocodiles play an important role in cleaning the water from pollution due to corpses that have fallen into it. They also control the amount of fish that other animals depend on.

In Africa, the cult of the crocodile has survived to this day. There they are sacred animals and killing them is a mortal sin. In Madagascar, reptiles live in special reservoirs where, on religious holidays, local residents sacrifice livestock to them.

Since crocodiles suffer due to the anxiety of a person who conducts economic activities in their territories, reptiles cannot adapt to new conditions. For these purposes, there are farms in which the most comfortable conditions for their habitat are reproduced.

If we compare the Nile crocodile with other species, these individuals are not so hostile to humans. But because of the close proximity to the Aboriginal settlements, it is they who kill the most people every year. In the Guinness Book of Records is a cannibal — Nile crocodile that killed 400 people. An individual that ate 300 people in Central Africa has not yet been caught.

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