Deadly dangerous crocodiles

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 May, 2009, 12:00am
 

Meet the crocodilians

Crocodilians are a group of big reptiles that live in the tropics. There are about 23 types of crocodilian. These include crocodiles, alligators, caimans and gavial.

All crocodilians are carnivores. They have very powerful jaws filled with lots of sharp teeth.

Crocodilians live in swamps and rivers. They have sharp claws that help them grip when running on muddy riverbanks. They also have webbed toes to help them swim.

Another special thing about crocodilians is their skin. It is thick and works like armour plating. These reptiles are very tough.

The first crocodilians appeared about 220 million years ago. Because modern crocodilians look almost exactly the same as their dinosaur ancestors, they are called living fossils.

A big difference between dinosaurs and modern crocodilians is that the dinosaurs were bigger. A 12-metre long animal nicknamed SuperCroc lived in North Africa some 112 million years ago. If SuperCroc stood on its tail, it could look into the window of a fourth storey flat!

True or false?

1 All crocodilians are reptiles.

2 Not all crocodilians are carnivores.

3 Crocodilians are nicknamed living fossils.

Chinese alligator

Choose the correct alternative:

The Chinese alligator lives in rivers and swamps around the Yangtze River. It is about 1.5 metres long and weighs about 40kg.

During the summer, this reptile/mammal hunts fish, mussels, rats and ducks. During the winter these alligators hibernate underground. They can sleep for up to seven months.

The Chinese alligator is very extinct/rare. There are less than 50 living in the wild. About 10,000 more live in zoos.

These animals are being killed because the swamps they live in are being turned into farms. Building dams/bridges on the Yangtze River also destroyed their homes.

Farmers bribe/poison alligators to stop them living under fields in the winter. Farmers also say alligators eat their chickens and ducks.

Although officially protected, poachers kill Chinese alligators and sell their bodies to Chinese medicine makers.

See crocodilians in Hong Kong

Crocodilians are not native in Hong Kong. But in November 2003 a saltwater crocodile turned up in the Shan Pui River in the New Territories.

The croc was nicknamed Croc Croc Chan after the family that first spotted it. Other people called it Gucci - a bad joke about designer crocodile skin handbags.

Expert crocodile hunters from the mainland and Australia couldn't catch it. Croc Croc Chan was only caught in June 2004 after a long hunt by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

Luckily the crocodile was unharmed. She was renamed Pui Pui and is now living at the Hong Kong Wetland Park.

Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens have a pair of Chinese alligators. Both were born in zoos.

Nile crocodile

Find words that mean the following:

victim, grownups, prayed to, sometimes

Crocodilians usually attack their prey and hold it under water until it drowns.

Crocodilians can keep their mouth open under water and not drown because they have a special valve in their throat that covers their windpipe.

However, if they want to eat, they have to open up their windpipe. Because of this, crocs kill in the water but eat on land.

One of the most dangerous crocodilians is the Nile crocodile that lives in Africa. Baby crocs eat insects and frogs. But adults grow to 6 metres long and will eat fish, goats, cows, zebras and even giraffes. Occasionally they kill people.

The ancient Egyptians worshipped the crocodile god Sobek. Nile crocodiles were also a symbol of the power of the pharaoh.

The gavial

Fill in the gaps with the following words:

spearing, attack, recognise, killing

Gavials live in rivers in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar. They are easy to ________________ because they have long narrow snouts. Their snout is filled with long sharp teeth. When these reptiles close their mouth, these teeth fit together perfectly.

Big gavials can be 5 metres long. But even big gavials don't ________________ people. This is because their jaws break easily. This makes it impossible for them to fight people or big animals. However, gavials are scavengers. If they find a corpse, they'll eat it.

Young gavials eat mostly insects and small frogs. Adult gavials eat fish. They catch fish by sweeping their mouth sideways as they swim. Their sharp teeth are perfect for ________________ fish.

Habitat destruction and river pollution are ________________ gavials. They almost became extinct in the 1970s. Today they are still critically endangered.

compare!

One way to tell an alligator from a crocodile is to look at its smile. A croc's teeth stick out at the top and bottom. A gator only has its top teeth sticking out. But do you really want to get close enough to see?

fab fact!

According to the Guinness World Records, the biggest crocodile is a 7.5-metre male saltwater crocodile living in India's Bhitarkanika Park

fab fact!

Until the 1970s, more than 60,000 black caiman from South America were killed every year for their beautiful skin. Between 1870 and 1970, about 99 per cent of all black caimans were killed. Today black caimans are protected

now do this

Try to answer the following questions without referring to the text

1 Which is not a crocodilian?

a. Komodo dragon

b. caiman

c. gavial

2 When did the first crocodilians appear?

a. 10 million years ago

b. 22 million years ago

c. 220 million years ago

3 What's unusual about gavials?

a. their long narrow snouts

b. their black skin

c. their big size

4 Which is the smallest?

a. gavial

b. Chinese alligator

c. Nile crocodile

5 What sort of crocodile is Pui Pui?

a. Chinese alligator

b. Nile crocodile

c. saltwater crocodile

Look online for more about crocodilians

Who?s who of crocodilians

www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/crocs/whos

An interactive map with lots of pics and facts to help you get to know each species at a glance.

Crocodilians

http://crocodilian.com

Check out quick fact sheets for all 23 species, croc poetry, croc legend, conservation and much more.

NG SuperCroc

www.nationalgeographic.com/supercroc

Find out more about the crocodile dinosaur from the Sahara Desert that was as big a city bus!

Nat Geo Wild

You can see Nile crocodiles in Croc Chronicles: Sacrifice on the Shire on Friday at 7pm and Saturday at 1pm and Monster Croc on Saturday at 11pm and Sunday at 11am. Caimans can be seen in Croc

Chronicles: Pit Vipers & Pioneer Crocs on Friday at 7.30pm and Saturday at 1.30pm on Nat Geo Wild.

Answers

May 20

Page 7:

The giant of the seas: 1. true, 2. true, 3. true

Karaoke king: sing, enormous, species, yell

Gentle giants: gentle, interesting, endangered

Endangered colossus: trapped, injured/hurt, banned, enemies

Quiz: 1. c, 2. b, 3. b, 4. c, 5. b, 6. c

Share

 

Send to a friend

To forward this article using your default email client (e.g. Outlook), click here.

Deadly dangerous crocodiles

Enter multiple addresses separated by commas(,)

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive