Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. I find it difficult to express just how fortunate I’ve been in having had the chance to work with 12 Crocodilian species in the wild and captivity. Breeding Dwarf Caimans, wrestling Orinoco Crocodiles into boats, getting up close and personal to Gomek (a giant, now famous Salt Water Croc), rearing Indian Gharials…these and many other experiences remain etched in my memory. One species in particular cemented my interest in the group, and remains as much a mystery today as it was when I first saw it some 40 years ago – the massive False Gharial, Tomistoma schlegelii.
A Mysterious Giant
The False Gharial, which may exceed 16 feet in length, is the least-studied of the large Crocodilians, and among the rarest. It has been bred in captivity only 3 times in the last 60 years (once at the Bronx Zoo, prior to my tenure) and few US zoos exhibit them today; 28 reside in European zoos, while South America is home to 1 specimen.
A secretive nature keeps the False Gharial shrouded in mystery. The few field studies that have been carried out (please see below) indicate that it has been exterminated from much of its range. Read More »
Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. The global extinction crisis faced by amphibians has been much in the news in recent years, as have threats to sea turtles, Madagascar’s tortoises, Asia’s freshwater turtles and other long-suffering groups. In the USA, a number of reptile and amphibian species are also in dire straits despite, in some cases, federal protection. I hope this article inspires both hope and action in my many conservation-minded readers.
Unprecedented Agreement May Help 757 Species
Following a slew of lawsuits by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the Federal government has agreed to speedily consider protecting an additional 757 native species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The CDB employs an attorney who deals solely with amphibians and reptiles, and the agreement is said to be “airtight” and legally enforceable.
This agreement is an important step, as the ESA is our most powerful wildlife law. Indeed, ESA listings have proven vital to the continued survival of many species. For example, a recent CBD study of 110 ESA-protected species showed that 90% of them were recovering “on time”, according to the goals set at the original listing…not bad, considering what is happening to rhinos and other “protected” species elsewhere! Read More »
Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. A life engrossed in herpetology has provided me with more adventures than I dared expect. From tagging Leatherback Turtles in St. Croix to heaving Green Anacondas from a Venezuelan swamp, I’ve been quite fortunate. But I’ve always known that natural wonders are also plentiful close at hand. In fact, one of my most exciting herping trips took place in a NYC suburb.
Note: I’d enjoy hearing about your own unforgettable (and “wish you could forget”!) herping experiences. Whether your tales involve garter snakes in the backyard or crocodile monitors in New Guinea, please write in so that I can share them with other readers, thanks.
Turtle Enthusiasts Gather at SUNY Purchase
In July of 1993, I attended an amazing, week-long international conference held in Westchester County, NY – The Conservation, Restoration and Management of Tortoises and Turtles. Hosted by the dedicated folks at the NY Turtle and Tortoise Society, this gathering of leading professionals and serious hobbyists has, in my experience, yet to be matched. The 500-page conference proceedings are an invaluable resource, and I highly recommend them to anyone with more than a passing interest in turtles and tortoises. You can order the proceedings, for the unbelievable price of $20, here. Read More »
Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. The Saltwater or Estuarine Crocodile, Crocodylus porosus, is the largest of the world’s reptiles. Until now, the record was held by a 21.1 foot-long male taken in 1974 along the Mary River in Australia’s Northern Territory. This month (September, 2011) an astonishing behemoth was captured alive in the southern Philippines…and it may be the biggest croc ever seen!
Large Saltwater Crocodiles, or “Salties”, awe neophyte and veteran herpetologists equally when viewed up close. There is simply no way to prepare oneself for the grandeur of these other-worldly beasts. I had worked with hundreds of large crocs before meeting my first true monster – a 17-foot-long, 1,700 pound brute christened “Gomek” (please see article below). Accompanied by his keeper, I edged to within a few feet of the usually calm, nutria-eating giant, and I still lack the words to properly describe the experience.
Well, the individual just captured in the Philippines out-measures Gomek by quite a bit…please see the video below. He frequented the outskirts of a farming town in Bunawan Township, 515 miles southeast of Manila. Circumstances led residents to believe that the animal, whom they have named “Lolong”, may have been responsible for killing several people; domestic water buffaloes were also on his menu.
Catching a Legend
The giant destroyed 4 traps and eluded capture for 3 weeks; a stronger, re-built trap finally snared him. After several escapes from ropes that sought to restrain him (not an easy task, even with much smaller animals, I can assure you!) Lolong was pulled from the water…a feat that took the efforts of 90-100 people!
The new heavyweight contender is currently listed as being 21 feet long and weighing an amazing 2,370 pounds. The Mary River individual mentioned earlier measured at least 21 feet long (there is some uncertainty). I’m anxious to hear if 21 feet is a rough measurement…if so, we may have a new record.
Unfortunately, giant crocodiles and people do not mix, so this fellow cannot be released. An exhibit in a local ecotourism park is expected to be his new home.
Saltwater Crocs occupy an enormous range that stretches from northern India southeast through China and Thailand to Australia. Ocean journeys of over 600 miles have been documented, and they sometimes wind up well beyond their normal haunts (i.e. Japan); some particularly seaworthy specimens even sport barnacles!
An Extinct Giant
Salties are not the largest crocs to have ever lived. Deinosuchus, a 29-foot-long crocodile that once roamed Florida, preyed upon dinosaurs! Please see this article.
Gomek was captured on New Guinea’s Fly River and eventually found a home with Arthur Jones. Mr. Jones, best known for inventing Nautalis weight-lifting equipment, was quite the animal fancier. At one point he had scores of adult crocs and a herd of 20+ African Elephants on his land in Florida. Years in the zoo field and friendship with a protégé of his have favored me with a few peeks into his most unique life…but those are stories for another time. For now, please check out the Gomek article below.
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Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.
Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Inspired by fellow Bronxite John Kiernan’s wonderful book A Natural History of New York City, I have searched for reptiles and amphibians in just about every corner of the Big Apple. An amazing array of species manage to hold on here and in other cities around the world (Reticulated Pythons are regularly encountered in Singapore and Bangkok) – in fact, I cannot cover all of NYC’s species in a single article. Today I’ll take a look at big city snakes.
Snakes of NY State
New York State is home to 17-18 species of snakes, most of which once dwelled within NYC limits. Three of these – the Copperhead, Timber Rattlesnake and Eastern Massasauga – are venomous. Read More »