As many of our amazing guests may have noticed, we have new additions in Scaly Slimy Spectacular! A few months ago, we were lucky to receive two juvenile West African slender-snouted crocodiles (Mecistops cataphractus)! These brothers are members of a critically endangered species and will play a very important role in the slender-snouted crocodile Species Survival Plan®(SSP) once they reach maturity. Egg-cellent!
Slender-snouted crocodiles got their name from their unusually narrow snouts. Most crocodilians (alligators, crocodiles, and caimans) have broad snouts. If you look at those snouts very closely, you can see little tiny bumps around the jaws. These tiny bumps are called integumentary sense organs (or ISOs). There are ISOs all over a crocodile’s body that provide them with important information about their environment. Information like how close that fish is swimming near his mouth. They also have a special third eyelid, called a nictitating membrane, that they use like a pair of goggles to help them see underwater, wow! All these things make them outstanding fishermen! Along with fish, they love eating crustaceans, amphibians, small mammals, semi-aquatic reptiles and even birds.
Slender-snouted crocodiles are critically endangered for many reasons. Some of those are loss of habitat, poaching for their skins, and many levels of human encroachment that tend to disturb this very shy species. That is why it is so amazing that we have these two young brothers right here at Zoo Atlanta for all of us to watch grow up! Next time you visit, don’t forget to stop by to meet Babu and Meci, the African slender-snouted crocodiles who are here to represent this amazing species! See you soon!
Keeper III, Herpetology