Sunday, September 16, 2007

Meet Mr. Croc

If you’ve seen crocodiles only in books and on television, a visit to the Crocodile Preservation just before reaching the KB Bridge from Koror will give you a chance to see anhonest to goodness, live crocodiles. Opened way back in 1990, this area was opened as a crocodile breeding center aimed to restore the lost population of crocodiles as a result of over-hunting.

Two crocodiles about 10 feet long were basking in the afternoon sun while the other two were nowhere to be found. Joshua Eberdong, Turtle, crocodile and dugong coordinator of the Bureau of Marine Resources clapped his hands several times. A few minutes later, there was the slightest movement in the water, very slight you could barely notice, then the crocodile’s nose surfaced.

Eberdong said there is only one species of crocodile in Palau- the salt water crocodile. Eberdong said he used to keep as many as 30 to 40 crocodiles in his pens before but after he learned that the space he had was too small, he began releasing the crocodiles until only four are left- two males and two females.
The females lay an average of 28 to 45 eggs. The eggs take only 60 days before they are hatched and has about 45 percent survival rate.
The crocodiles fed once a week on dressed chickens and can consume about ten chickens each on one feeding.
To rebound the crocodile’s population which is near extinction, Eberdong said a few weeks after the eggs were hatched, he releases the baby crocodile back into the waters. They feed on other animals like chickens, rats, cats, wild pigs, birds, and mangrove crabs.

"Mangrove and swampy areas are where the crocodiles live,” says Joshua

Records show that the crocodile was respected and treated like a mysterious thing before but about 1965 a fisherman from Airai Village got taken by a crocodile. Then there was anger towards the crocodile, and that resulted to the move to eradicate crocodiles by the conservation officer for the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands that was based here. The incident was reported to have left quite a mark on people’s minds that the crocodiles were bad and we need to get rid of them.

“When you’re in places where crocodiles are known to be, you know the risks—you don’t swim but crocodiles only feed at night. They sleep most of the day,” Eberdong said.

There have been few incidents where someone was hurt by a crocodile but this has not changed people’s perceptions. Eberdong said the Crocodile Preservation is the only area in the country which breeds crocodiles to recover their dwindling population. Crocodiles are still viewed as threat to people as well as competition for mangrove crabs and reef fish. Eberdong said there are at least 700 to 1,000 crocodiles existing in Palau

The Crocodile Preservation is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Sundays. A $3 fee is collected from adult visitors and $2 for kids for the area’s maintenance and to meet the food supplies of the crocodiles. You may call 488-2004 for further details.

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