Critically Endangered Philippine Crocodile Can Scale 50 Degree Limestone Walls
This behavior may suggest researchers take a second look at the population of the species, pegged at around 100 in the wild.
The most critically endangered crocodile species in the world, the Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) can climb steep hills, a behavior that was unknown by researchers studying the species until now.
The reptile, which has seen steady declines that now there are an estimated 100 left in the wild, saw additions to the wild populations in 2013 when 36 captive bred crocodiles were reintroduced to Philippine crocodile habitat on Siargao Island in the Philippines, an island known around the world for its surfing than its reptiles. In 2017, 29 juvenile crocodiles were released.
Monitoring the species on the island led to a peculiar observation; the capability of this species to climb limestone walls with 50 degree slopes.
“These crocodiles can climb to as high as 16 meters [52 feet] or about more than two-story house equivalent and with 50 degrees steep slope limestone wall,” Rainier I. Manalo, marine biologist and program head for crocodile research at Crocodylus Porosus Philippines Incorporated (CPPI), a conservation organization dedicated to the species, told MongaBay. “This is the first time that anyone has recorded and observed this behavior which is very unusual.”
This capability, could help the researchers better devise a plan to protect and repopulate the species in the wild. Other observed behavior included the fact that the crocodiles bury themselves deeper into the mud/crevices close to the water line in an effort to stay cool during the dry season, when the temperatures are at their hottest in the island archipelago. Climbing higher may give the crocodiles a cooler place to thermoregulate.
“We cannot imagine how those crocodiles got up those crevices and small caves when we had a hard time climbing those slopes ourselves,” Manalo told Mongabay. “We might have been looking at the wrong places, and maybe that’s why we’ve only documented so few in the wild.”
The Philippine crocodile’s status remains critically endangered, though there is some positive things ahead for them as two juveniles were brought over from a captive breeding program at the Cologne Zoo in Germany. These two are the first of 12 that are slated to make the trip back home to be reintroduced into the wild.
How many Philippine crocodiles are left in the wild?
There are an estimated 100 adult Philippine crocodiles left in the island nation and they can be found almost exclusively in freshwater habitats. Breeding programs for the species have been successful. The Philippine crocodile is smaller than the better known saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) that can be found in the southern Philippines. Crocodylus mindorensis has declined as a result of hunting and human activity. They have a broad snout and can be found in still or slow-moving bodies of water. Both males and females guard the eggs, which is unique among crocodiles as it is usually the female that guards the eggs in other croc species. They feed on fish, reptiles, small mammals and water birds and have a life expectancy of about 70 to 80 years years.