MIAMI, Fla. (WFLA) – Ahead of Mother’s Day weekend, Zoo Miami welcomed a group of critically endangered Orinoco crocodile hatchlings.
Zoo officials say the mother crocodile laid 45 eggs on Feb. 5 in a nest located in an off-exhibit holding area. To prevent any loss due to predation or extreme weather events, the eggs were carefully collected by zoo staff on Feb. 12 and placed in incubators.
On May 2, the first egg pipped and soon the hatchling had fully emerged from the egg. Since then, six other crocs have also fully hatched while several others have pipped and are still in the process of hatching. Zoo staff expects that hatching will continue through the weekend and into next week.
According to Zoo Miami, the hatching period is spread out because the eggs have been incubated in two separate incubators kept at different temperatures. The reason for this is because the sex of all crocodilians is determined by the temperature that the eggs are incubated at.
Generally speaking, cooler temperatures produce females and warmer temperatures produce males. By incubating the eggs in separate incubators with warmer and cooler temperatures, the hope is to have an even ratio of males to females.
Orinoco crocodiles are one of the world’s most critically endangered crocodilians due to extensive hunting for their skin and meat. The species is typically found in isolated pockets of the Orinoco River basin in Venezuela and the Meta River basin in Colombia.
While they are very similar in appearance to the American crocodile, the Orinoco crocodile gets slightly larger with historical records of huge males approaching 20 feet in length.
Zoo Miami says the hope is to eventually return these hatchlings to the wild.