Saturday, April 13, 2013

A monster crocodile in Toledo

In late 2012, Toledo Zoo contacted our company looking for an adult saltwater crocodile for their forthcoming Wild Walkabout exhibit. They weren't looking for a particularly massive one, only about 4 metres (about 13 feet long). I figured we could do a bit better than that. It just so happened that I knew of an awesome 5.2 m (17 ft) saltwater crocodile that was whiling away the days in a muddy pool in captivity, an animal that had been removed under license as a "problem crocodile" from a landowner's property a couple of years earlier. What better role than as an ambassador for how awesome crocodiles are (and how many big crocs there are in the NT!) for Toledo Zoo? It didn't take long for Toledo to upgrade their ambitions, and so began the long process of arranging the transport of a massive crocodile halfway around the world. We've done this before several times, but each transport presents its own challenges. The main priority is to make sure the crocodile is happy and has a stress-free journey, something we've gotten down to a fine art. In fact the only issues were some last minute bureaucratic mix-ups, but these were sorted in the nick of time and it all went as smoothly as could be expected. "Baru" (as he is now known) is happily exploring his new million-dollar facility at Toledo Zoo. I think most of us would be quite happy with a million dollar home. So now you have an excuse to visit Toledo and visit Baru. The rest of the zoo is also very good, I was really impressed with some of the innovative designs and behavioural enrichment ideas that I saw, and their conservation breeding program is world-class (eg. Kihansi spray toad reintroduction).

Here's the news story that the Toledo Blade published which shows some of the transport and offloading process. They got a few figures wrong, including the fact that the journey actually took over 50 hours, not 30 hours. They also didn't mention the part on the 15 hour international flight where the captain announced to the entire passenger compartment that they were sharing a flight with a very large saltwater crocodile. There was audible gasps.