Critically Endangered Orinoco Crocodiles Coming to Gladys Porter Zoo

Oct 14, 2011, 12:36 ET from Gladys Porter Zoo

BROWNSVILLE, Texas, Oct. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Wednesday, October 12, 2011, Gladys Porter Zoo animal staff departed for a trip north to Welland, Ontario.  They will be joined by North American crocodile experts to carry out a strategy to move two very large, critically endangered crocodiles from their Canadian quarters to Brownsville, Texas.

The Zoo crew is headed to The Seaway Serpentarium, home of Blade and Suede, a pair of Orinoco crocodiles. The male is reportedly over 13 feet in length and weighs 1,200 to 1,400 pounds, while the female is said to be 10 to 11 feet long and weighs between 500 to 700 pounds.

Karel Fortyn, owner of Seaway Serpentarium, passed away suddenly in May leaving behind hundreds of animals including Blade and Suede. The crocodiles were outgrowing their tanks, and before his death, Mr. Fortyn had been planning to build them a new facility. But after his death, the need to move them became urgent. Ideally, they needed to move to a southern location where they could live outside for most of the year and have the opportunity to lend their genetics to the small handful of Orinoco crocodiles already in North American facilities.

The Gladys Porter Zoo spoke for the crocodiles in early summer and the work began. An American alligator exhibit was targeted for renovation. Also, import permits needed to be applied for, and it was hoped that the permit would be granted and issued well before winter temperatures began to settle in.  

The Division of Management Authority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued import permits in late September, and the exhibit renovations are nearing completion.  Next week, the U.S. Orinoco Crocodile Team will meet with the Canada Orinoco Crocodile Team, and the process of extracting the animals from their cramped quarters will begin.  Once the crocodiles are secured and crated, the crew will drive straight through to Brownsville to keep transport time as short as possible. This is an extremely risky procedure for Blade and Suede, because when they struggle during capture, their muscles build up high levels of acid that does not process out quickly.  That is why large crocodiles frequently die during – or shortly after – capture procedures.  

Orinoco crocodiles are native to Venezuela and Colombia, South America.  Due to extensive exploitation for their hides, they are the most endangered New World crocodilian, suffering a population decline of over 80 percent within the last three generations.

The species is listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered, and is in serious peril throughout its range. In the early 1990s, fewer than 1,500 non-hatchlings survived in the wild. Some estimate that the wild population may have been as low as 250 adults. Despite proactive conservation measures, declines and fragmentation of the population continues.

Link to a video of the crocs:
Photos and video available upon request

The Gladys Porter Zoo is a visitor-oriented zoological and botanical park, dedicated to the preservation of nature through education, conservation, and research. The Zoo is open everyday and its hours of operation are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on the weekends. Regular admission for adults is $9.50 (ages 14 – 64), $6.50 for children (ages 2 to 13) and seniors 65 and over receive a discounted admission of $8.00. Children 1 and under are free.

SOURCE Gladys Porter Zoo