The salt water crocodile is a fascinating fellow, as Sheroo finds out.

Roc, my croc pal from the Andamans, is miffed that I have forgotten all about him after my trip to his island. Have to make amends and introduce Roc to all you folks. So here's presenting Roc, the salt water crocodile!

Roc has an official species name Crocodylus porosus and his tribe can lay claim to the title of the largest reptile in the world. His ancestors lived before the age of dinos, some 135 million years ago.

Salt crocs are huge; an adult male stretching up to 23 feet, weighing an amazing 1000 kilos or more. The ladies are smaller measuring up to 10 feet. In the looks department (I must be diplomatic here) Roc is impressive. He is grey green, with a thick set body and a large head. He has very strong jaws and a set of 64 teeth. His eyes, ears and nose are conveniently located on the top of his head; so he can be almost totally underwater except for the top of his head.

Tactics

When underwater, he uses a second pair of eyelids (like goggles) to protect his eyes and at the same time see clearly. His ears too have flaps which close under water. Yet another waterproofing he does is to shut off his throat with a valve. While swimming, he keeps his legs close to his body and uses only his tail to propel himself. Never underestimate this dude if he may seem to be lazing quietly underneath. Without warning, he can break out of the waters with a giant leap!

Mama crocs lay around 40 to 60 eggs at a time in nests — a mound of vegetation on land. It takes almost 100 days for the eggs to hatch. Danger lurks as both nesting crocs and eggs are often killed by humans. When it's time to come out, the little ones cry out for help. And ever so gentle now, mommy croc removes them from the nest and takes them to water. Babies are pale white or yellow with dark stripes or spots. Until they are about eight months old they stay at kindergarten groups under the watchful eye of an adult.

Roc says there's no love lost between humans and his tribe. “It is total war, pal,” he says grimly as he recounts some gory tales. Crocs are poached for their skin, eggs and fat. A salt water croc skin is most sought after because there are fewer scutes (bony plates) on their underside as compared to other croc species. Since crocs eat pretty much anything that comes their way, humans use little dogs as bait to lure the crocs. These dogs are stuffed with bleaching powder to poison the crocs. As soon as a croc is caught, they quickly cut open the poor guy and take out the fat. This is used to make a medicine to cure asthma.

“The hatred is mutual,” he says bitterly and I don't tell him there are humans who actually care about crocs. Check out the Crocodile Bank in Chennai and you'll know what I mean.

A Children for Nature and Animals Unlimited (CANU) Initiative

Mail to sherook@wildmail.com

Jaws

Crocs bask in the sun with their mouths open. He's cooling off, sweating through his mouth.

A croc uses his teeth only to grab and crush. Food is swallowed whole!

With one powerful snap of the jaw, he grabs his prey but the muscles that open his mouth are very weak. You can just scotch tape his mouth to keep him shut.