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The Muggar or Marsh Crocodile – Encounters in Captivity and the Wild – Part 1

Marsh CrocodileI’ve been very fortunate in having spent many years working with Crocodilians in both captivity and the wild while remaining (more or less!) intact in the process.  Today I’d like to introduce the Marsh Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) and highlight a unique population that thrives in a most unexpected locale.


Marsh Crocodiles, also known as Muggars, are equipped with immensely broad snouts (the croc world’s widest) and may reach 16 feet in length.  Their large size and propensity to colonize canals and other man-made water bodies renders them a threat to people in some areas. Attacks are not unknown – this, along with a fondness for livestock and commercially important fish, has doomed several populations to extinction. 

The IUCN classifies the species as “Vulnerable”.  Fortunately, Muggars are farmed in some areas; this has lessened pressure on wild stock from skin traders.  The population in Iran, which I’ll discuss in Part 2 of this article, is not disturbed and seems to be doing quite well.

Working with Muggars

I worked with a group of Muggars at the Bronx Zoo for quite some time.  Like all crocs, they were amazingly aware of their surroundings and quick to respond to changes in their daily routine.  If I followed the same procedure each day when working in their exhibit, the Muggars would predict my movements and stay out of my way.  Two people entering the exhibit, however, meant trouble (they seemed to recall being restrained for vet exams) – and, as you can see from the accompanying photo, they were not shy abut charging in response.

I do not recommend keeping Crocodilians of any species as pets – but if you train as a professional zookeeper or field researcher there will be many exciting opportunities in store for you.  Almost all species, from the small (by croc standards) Dwarf Caiman to the massive Salt Water Crocodile, are in deep trouble, and many zoos are expanding their breeding efforts – please see the photo of I and co-workers moving a highly endangered Indian Gharial for a sample of what may await you.


Further Reading

Please see this website for an interesting collection of Muggar news stories and research notes.

My visit with Gomek, the largest croc in captivity.

Video of a wild Marsh Crocodile, Sloth Bears and other creatures.

Marsh Crocodile Basking image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Karunakar Rayker

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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