Have you ever watched the Disney Peter Pan movie from the 1950s?
If so, then maybe you remember Tick-Tock the Crocodile. He acted like a dog with a treat who wanted more. He followed the infamous Captain Hook around, always lurking and waiting to chomp.
Luckily for Hook, he also swallowed an alarm clock, which gave him his name and served as an ever-present alert system for the dastardly captain.
If Captain Hook lived today (and he wasn’t a cartoon) he wouldn’t have to fear the croc. And he’d have something a lot more useful to trace and understand the croc’s patterns. We’ll get to what researchers are doing in a bit but first a little information about these popular reptiles.
Get to Know Crocs
There are about 1,000 American crocodiles (not including hatchlings) in Florida. They make their homes in brackish and saltwater areas, and contrary to what you see in movies, they are really very shy and reclusive.
Next month and into August is when the baby crocs hatch from their eggs and their mothers carry them to the water. That’s a lot of work for mama because she lays about 35-50 eggs each year.
Crocs have the strongest bite in the animal kingdom. They bite down eight times harder than a Great White Shark, and 15 times stronger than a Rottweiler. They even bite down harder than your baby brother!
You can come in and meet Anubis, our Nile Crocodile, but it’s best not to ask him about his bite. Trust us.
Learn Some Alligator Awesomeness
Have you ever heard someone on the news refer to an 8-foot gator? Half of a gator’s length is its tail. While they can appear menacing, they’d really just prefer to hang out with their friends and soak up some of our hot Florida sun.
It’s really quite amazing that there are any alligators at all. You see it’s hard growing up gator. In fact, we’re sad to report that most of them don’t grow up at all. 50-80% of hatchlings die in the first year. Then half of that number, the ones who did make it to their first birthdays, die before they can have their own alligator babies.
We always hear about giant alligators but only 5% of alligators grow to be 9 feet or more. To put that in perspective for those of us who don’t feel like doing math, that means out of 100 gators, only 5 live to be the size that people worry about. So the next time you hear about a large gator being captured think about how extraordinary they are. They have lived through some really tough challenges. And often they are the protectors of their area. Remove them, and you’ve removed the main deterrent to other predators.
Do you know the quickest way to figure out the difference between an alligator and a crocodile, assuming you don’t feel comfortable asking them? (Just kidding. Don’t do that.) Look at their snout. A crocodile has a pointy snout, whereas an alligator has a broader u-shaped snout.
Tick-Tock Helps the Environment
Remember when we talked about Tick-Tock and how Captain Hook tracked him? Well, now researchers are putting tracking mechanisms to good use and doing a lot more good for the environment than that baddie Captain Hook.
Alligators and crocodiles are beginning to play a larger role in helping scientists figure out how the Everglades conservation efforts are going. In an effort to help preserve the wetlands, researchers are following the movements of the alligators and crocodiles by implanting chips that transmit data to an application using Google Maps. These chips don’t hurt the reptiles. They can’t even feel them but their use is doing a lot of good for their species and the environment.
The data collected from the chips helps scientists determine the reptiles’ response to the changing ecosystem including their:
It may not seem very constructive, but in fact, this information is important in analyzing the health of the Everglades. It helps us determine how the health is changing and how it is affecting wildlife.
Why Water Matters
Water levels in the Everglades are linked to many species of wildlife because it is a factor in determining their food supply.
When water levels are low, that spells trouble for a lot of animals.
For the crocs and gators, lower water levels mean there are fewer plants providing shelter and places to nest. Lower levels also mean there are less fish for animals to feed on. In extreme cases, and over time, we will see a decline in the numbers of many animal species if water levels drop.
If they can’t find a place to live and they can’t find food, life gets hard fast for them.
Won’t You Help the Gators?
What can you do for the alligators?
Invite them into your pool? Share your bath with them?
Neither of these is a good idea. Trust us on this too.
But you can seek out brands that promote conservation efforts. Look for companies that show concern over water levels and encroaching on the natural habitats of the gators and crocs.
You can also do your best and encourage others to leave these “older Floridians” alone. When we parade them around like pets and get them used to interacting with humans, that sets them up for something bad to happen. Never feed a wild gator. Like Tick-Tock they may decide that because you were nice enough to do that, that they can just help themselves to anything you have, including your pets. They can’t tell the difference between the food you want them to have and the “food” you don’t.
So please just leave them alone.
Finally, you can support organizations like Alligator Attraction that adopt and care for these animals. We also support larger conservation organizations and events like Crocfest, which is being held June 8th at the Miami Zoo. Every year their fundraiser raises money for crocs that are endangered or in peril.
We can’t do it alone. We need your help…and so do the gators and crocs.
Fun Alligator Activity:
It’s important to us that our alligators are well-cared for and have more to look forward to than just sitting in the water. Just like humans, gators need to stay stimulated. One way we do that is through our gator feeding exercise.
To us, it looks like fishing. We place food on a fishing pole and we dangle it in front of the gators. But for the alligators, it’s an exercise in staying sharp and focussing on grabbing that piece of food. This gives them an experience of pursuing the food instead of it simply being tossed into their area.
Come visit our alligators and crocodiles this summer and get a better appreciation for these majestic creatures.