Page last updated at 10:32 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

Dwarf crocodiles in name training at Cheshire aquarium

Cuvier's dwarf caiman crocodile at Blue Planet Aquarium
The tiny reptiles are given food when they obey a command

A pair of dwarf crocodiles can recognise their own names after training, a Cheshire aquarium claims.

The tiny reptiles, called Paleo and Suchus, are even learning when they are allowed to open their mouths, the Blue Planet Aquarium in Ellesmere Port says.

The programme has been successful with mammals but it is one of the first times it will be used on reptiles.

Manager Tom Cornwall said: "They are very intelligent and started responding to their names in just a few days."

In a bid to train them, the crocodiles, which are called Cuvier's dwarf caiman, are given food as a prize if they react in the right way.

'Dynamic and stimulating'

The programme is based on a similar scheme which is in operation at the famous Madras Crocodile Bank Trust in India.

Once fully trained, the aquarium's zoological team will set up "enrichment activities" for the pair.

Blue Planet Aquarium's ranger and exhibits manager Tom Cornwall, said: "As well as enabling us to approach them and inspect and treat any potential health issues it will also allow us to set up tasks and foraging exercises for them to mimic the types of behaviour they would have to use in the wild."

Found throughout South America, the Cuvier's dwarf caiman usually live in freshwater habitats like rivers, including the Amazon, flooded forests and larger lakes.

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