Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rare American Crocodile Sighted in Central Florida

An American crocodile

Among the reptiles that inhabit Florida, the most common and well-known is the American alligator. This majestic cold-blooded behemoth is found all over the state, with its range covering the majority of the South. But it is only in Florida where this scaly beast of the bayous shares its habitat with its larger and rarer cousin: the American crocodile. Unlike the alligator, the American crocodile's range is strictly limited to South Florida, including around the Florida Keys and its population is estimated to be around 1,500 individuals. However, this changed recently when one was spotted resting near a lake in St. Petersburg further up north. Upon its sighting, the eight-foot-long monster was safely captured by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Officials plan to release it in the nearby Tampa Bay, hoping that the new habitat would prevent it from returning to the neighborhoods. According to Lindsey Hord, the commission's crocodile response coordinator, it was possible that this was the same crocodile that was sighted three years ago. She further added that the animal had been feeding on ducks in the lake.

I think one reason for this sudden discovery is that the crocodile probably made its way up when the availability of waterfowl was scarce in its former place. The second reason maybe that the population of these reptiles in South Florida must have reached its capacity, and individuals are seeking out new places to settle. Whatever the reason, this discovery clearly illustrates how the conservation of the American crocodile has helped sustain its population and has allowed it to grow steadily over the years. Like the alligators, these reptiles are crucial in sustaining the local ecosystems especially the estuaries (alligators are chiefly associated with freshwater). And I feel that as long as these reptiles continue to receive protection, they will recolonize their former haunts where they had once disappeared.

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