After a 12,000 km journey and a 30-year relationship, two Australian salt-water crocodiles have finally started a family in Dubai’s under water zoo.
King and Queen Croc of The Dubai Mall Aquarium have been mating regularly since they arrived in the Emirates in June last year, but unfortunately her eggs have always been soft shelled so most people assumed she wouldn’t be able to reproduce.
The King is about 35 years old and Queen is assumed to be over 80. That’s why the person who captured her, John Lever, called her the ‘cougar.’
Once known in Australia as Jock and Missy, the pair were taken from Queensland’s north in June last year to their new home.
Greg Giarratana, National Airfreight Development Manager at Mainfreight Australia, is one of the few experts at transporting wild animals, but was asked to take his job to a new extreme for this mission.
“Generally speaking, the small animals are usually more delicate to handle, while the large ones present a real logistical challenge. To transport the crocs we had to get really creative and converted a 20-foot metal crate into a two-bedroom ‘motor home’ for over-sized reptiles – complete with split system air conditioning.”
Paul Hamilton, General manager and curator of the aquarium has crafted an exact replica of an Australian crocodile habitat, where humidity and air quality is constantly monitored and controlled between 28-30 degrees.
King and Queen Croc now live in a ‘multi-million dollar’ enclosure, which features a 150 sq m pool stocked with fish from Australia. A few kookaburras have been added to the enclosure as well.
The giant male is between 35-40 years of age, 5 meters long and weighs in at 750-800kg, ‘and he will continue to grow with a life span of around 100 years’, said Hamilton.
King Croc was rescued in 1986 after he moved into a manmade lake in the Royal Botanical Garden in North Queensland. His presence had become a safety concern for visitors as he took up the habit of nightly strolls up an attached dry creek and into the local neighborhoods.
John Lever, owner of the Koorana Salt Water Crocodile Farm on the Capricorn Coast in Central Queensland found King Croc 30 years ago when he was only 2.2 metres.
King was kept with four females, one of which was Queen, or at the time, Missy. But eventually there was only the two left, ‘Missy was very domineering, she would beat all the other crocs up to get his attention,’ said Lever.
Even though ‘Queen’s age can not be identified she is estimated to be up to 80 years old, and females generally have a breeding life of 40 years and it would be extremely unusual for females to breed after 60 years of age,’ said Lever.
Crowned ‘King and Queen Croc’ upon their arrival, the crocodiles soon became the ‘it’ couple of Dubai, wasting no time settling in, within 20 days they were ‘blowing bubbles at one another’ Lever said, as a kind of ‘foreplay’ or invitation to mate.
The honeymoon was successful and rewarding at best as within the year Queen Croc had laid 59 eggs, which was astounding considering the last few decades the two had been unsuccessful countless times.
The successful reproduction is unheard of considering her age and inability in the last three decades, however the miracle birth is making headlines with the arrival of their 3 newborns.
To see salt water crocodile’s mate is an extremely rare sighting considering their natural habitats. Their love is no secret and neither is their intimacy as their mating habits are quite frequent and completely random ‘one moment King croc will be having a feed and the next he will take Queen under his arm for a good time’ said Hamilton.
To ensure the hatchlings survived, the eggs were put into an incubator however out of the 59 only 3 survived, though this was a miracle that even that many made it at all.
The baby crocs are still developing in the incubators for visitors of the aquarium to see and soon they will be reunited with their parents.
“The crocs are bringing in a large number of visitors and proved to be successful of the initial proposals, we see 74 million visitors to the entrance window annually,” said Hamilton.
“We have plans to expand and refurbish both the croc enclosure and the entry of the aquarium which will be underway in the coming months,” said Hamilton. This will include designed multimedia 3d imagery that will show a killer whale jumping out of the water, personally designed by Paul Hamilton.
The crocs are ambassadors for Australia and help to dispel myths of our country. When the Australian Ambassador of The United Arab Emirates, Pablo Kane opened the crocodile sanctuary he was asked “what if they escape and they eat people?”
Just as Australians have myths about the Middle East, the Middle East has myths about Australia.