Zoo Miami (Florida), has announced that a clutch of Orinoco crocodile eggs has successfully hatched. The Orinoco crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius), is one of the world’s rarest crocodilians, in the wild, this species is limited to freshwater habitats in Venezuela and Columbia. As such, it is the most southerly of all the American crocodilians.

The female Orinoco crocodile laid a clutch of 45 eggs on February 5th (2021). Zoo staff collected the eggs and placed them in two incubators set at different temperatures. The sex of crocodilians is determined by the temperature that the eggs are incubated at. So, in order to ensure a mix of males and females, the clutch was divided in two and incubated in two batches. Generally, cooler temperatures produce females and warmer temperatures produce males. By incubating the eggs in separate incubators with different temperatures, the curators at the crocodilian enclosure planned to have a mix of both males and females hatching in a bid to maximise the future breeding potential of the progeny.

A quartet of Orinoco crocodiles.
Recently hatched, critically endangered Orinoco crocodiles are shown to the media. Picture credit: Zoo Miami.

Hatching Spread over Several Days

The first eggs began to hatch on May 2nd, the mother of the brood, was herself hatched at Zoo Miami in 1980 and had been sent to various institutions before returning to the zoo two years ago. The father was hatched at the Dallas World Aquarium in the spring of 2004 and arrived at Zoo Miami in November 2006. This is their first clutch together.

A spokesperson for the zoo stated that once the crocodiles were big enough, it was hoped that these rare reptiles could be returned to the wild.

Zoo Miami (also known as The Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens), was formed in 1948 and is the largest zoo in Florida and the fifth biggest in the United States. It is home to more than 3,000 animals, many of which such as the Orinoco crocodiles, are critically endangered.

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