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Last Updated: Friday August 13 2010 16:33 GMT

Sonali helps crocodiles move home

Sonali carying a croc in a tube

Sonali helps crocodiles move home

Two critically endangered crocodiles have been moved from Denmark to the Sea Life Aquarium in London.

'Unpacking' the creatures is a fascinating job - and Sonali went along to help out!

Here's her report.


"How does a crocodile move home?

This morning, I got to find out! The Sea Life London Aquarium invited me to help unpack a pair of the world's rarest reptiles - two female Cuban crocodiles - and watch them start to settle into their new home.

Cuban crocodiles are a critically endangered species for a few reasons. They're quite fussy about where they live so when their swamps and marshes are destroyed, they have nowhere else to go.

They're also hunted by people for meat, and their skin is made into handbags, purses and boots. That's why there are only a few thousand of them left in the wild - in just two swamps in Cuba.

Back of van

Sonali carrying a crocodile in a tube
Sonali carrying a crocodile in a tube

They don't have webbed feet like other crocs and love to spend a lot of time on land. And they're famous for their amazing ability to leap from hiding places to catch their prey - birds and small monkeys in trees can often end up as lunch!

There are a few Cuban crocodiles in captivity in Europe - the two moving into the aquarium today were born in Denmark.

They were transported from their 'Krokodile' Zoo to the UK by boat. Once in the country, they were driven to the aquarium in the back of a van.

When the van door opened, I was expecting to see them in some sort of cage, but actually, each croc was in its own plastic tube. Curator Paul Hale told me that's the safest way to move them and they like dark places, so they enter the tubes quite easily.

Poo

I had to help lift one of the tubes out of the van, to the wetland habitat inside the aquarium. Wearing gloves was a must in case there was any E.coli on the tube - that's a type of bacteria which can make you sick.

A crocodile shoots out of the tube
A crocodile shoots out of the tube

It took two of us to carry the tube - I got the head end - and we had to keep it as straight as possible - not easy when it's quite heavy and smells quite bad. I'm told that's because the croc had done a poo inside his tube!

I wasn't allowed into the enclosure when keepers released the crocs because they're so dangerous, so I watched from behind the glass.

They had to be really careful - one keeper had to hold the tail while the other opened the head end of the tube. The crocs looked slightly nervous coming out - but soon looked pretty chilled in the water.

Breeding

A crocodile in its new home
A crocodile in its new home

I can't believe I helped move two crocs into their new home. They're the only Cuban crocodiles in the UK!

They're quite young at the moment, but when they're ready, keepers want to bring a male crocodile over from Denmark to start breeding the rare reptile.

In the wild, only two or three hatchlings would survive to become adults, but in the safety of captivity, they stand a much better chance."

Sonali