Saturday, May 21, 2011

Marsh Crocodile

The marsh crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) is a species of crocodile found in Asia.  It is also known as the 'Mugger' which means 'water monster'.  They are rated as 'vulnerable' by the IUCN.

Physical Features
The length of old, mature male marsh crocodiles range from 10 feet to a maximum of 16 feet.  The biggest marsh crocodile was 16.8 feet.  They weigh about 450 kilograms.  A marsh crocodile more than about 13 feet long is exceedingly rare.  They have 19 upper teeth on each side of their mouth.  An average female is 8 feet long while an average male is about 10.3 feet.  On their dorsal shield, they have 4 longitudinal series of scutes and sometimes they may even have 6 of these series of scutes.  The scales on the limbs have a ridge down the center (keeled).  Marsh crocodile can run up to 8 kph on land if they have to catch prey.  In water they are much faster, swimming in short bursts of 10 to 12 kph.  Otherwise, they cruise at a speed of 1.6 kph to 3.2kph.

Distribution and Habitat
Marsh crocs at CrocBank
The marsh crocodile is found in India, Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and even in the southern tip of Iraq.  It is the only crocodillian found in Pakistan and Iran.  They are highly populated in India.  Marsh crocodiles are freshwater crocodiles and therefore are found in marshes, lakes, rivers and freshwater streams.  They are commonly spotted in man made reservoirs.  Although they live in freshwater, they have some tolerance in saltwater.  It is adapted to terrestrial life.  It is more closely related to the Cuban crocodile.  Many marsh crocodile are found in captivity.  In captivity, they are found in places like CrocBank (Chennai) and Amaravathi Sagar Crocodile Farm (Coimbatore District).

Marsh crocodiles feed on fish, small reptiles and mammals, such as turtles and monkeys respectfully.  Large males are known to eat deers such as Sambars that weigh about 225 kg.  They may even eat a 450 kg domestic water buffalo.  There are not many reports of them eating humans.  These crocodiles come on land to hunt at night.