the Legacy continues…………………….
Gregory R. Mann, Ph.D. {ret.}

Mugger Crocodile

“Crocodylus palustris”

The broad snout of the Mugger Crocodile also called Marsh Crocodile, makes it look more like an alligator than a crocodile, but the large and visible fourth tooth indicates that it is a true crocodile. The head is flat with the eyes, ears and nostrils all on the top to allow the Mugger Crocodile to submerge the rest of the body, but still keep these sensory organs above the water. The eye is protected by a clear third eyelid for underwater vision and the windpipe can be covered with a flap of skin to allow the Mugger Crocodile to attack underwater without letting water into the lungs. The Mugger Crocodile has webbed feet, but these are not used in swimming as they are tucked against the body whilst the flat tail propels the mugger through the water. Juveniles are light tan in color with black cross-banding on the body & tail but this fades with age as the body becomes gray to brown. Males are larger than females. The Mugger Crocodile is a highly social species that communicates through visual and audible signals, has a dominance hierarchy and exhibits territoriality. Males thrash their tails and lift their snouts to establish territories and gain dominance before courtship & mating. One month after mating between February and April, the female lays 10 to 48 eggs in a nest site that she returns to every year for much of her life. After 55 to 75 days of incubation, the eggs hatch and the hatchlings are carried to water by the female and sometimes even the male. The sex of the hatchlings is determined by the temperature at which they incubate. Males result from eggs incubated at 32.5 ºC and females result from eggs incubated either above or below 32.5 ºC. The juveniles remain in the territory for up to a year. The adults reach sexual maturity at 6 years. Adults are long lived (20-40+ years) and have a longer than average reproductive length as well (10-30+ years).

Mugger Crocodiles inhabit freshwater lakes, ponds and marshes and may also be found in reservoirs, irrigation canals, human-made ponds and even coastal saltwater lagoons. The Mugger Crocodile prefers fairly shallow, calm waters. Mugger Crocodiles consume crustaceans, insects and small fish when young and move on to a diet of fish, frogs, crustaceans, birds, monkeys and squirrels in adulthood. The Mugger Crocodile is found in India, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Mugger Crocodiles have been used in traditional Indian medicine and have been hunted for sport and for their skin, particularly during the 1950’s & 1960’s. Hunting for their skin was the major factor that contributed to the decline of the Mugger Crocodile, but it is no longer the primary pressure on this species. Habitat destruction for agricultural & industrial development, egg predation by humans and drowning in fishing nets are the current threats that face the Mugger Crocodile. All wild populations of Mugger Crocodiles are legally protected and management programs intended to restore populations have been very successful. Widespread captive breeding programs have restocked wild populations and now have a surplus of captive-bred crocodiles as suitable habitat is limited. The Mugger Management Project in Similipal, India was started in 1979 and was able to rebuild populations, provide Mugger Crocodiles for restocking elsewhere and resort eventually to farming the crocodiles. The Indian government has now called an end to all captive breeding programs in India. The Mugger Crocodile is potentially dangerous to humans. Fatal attacks have been reported, though less frequently than by Saltwater & Nile crocodiles. Human victims are dragged into the water and drowned but are rarely consumed. Since large Mugger Crocodiles occasionally take livestock, this leads to conflict with local people living close to their habitat.

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