The Jakarta Post
Employees at the Semarang Zoo hurriedly relocated 63 saltwater crocodile eggs early this week as they were showing signs of hatching.
The mother crocodile, which was constantly watching over the mound in which the eggs were laid, started scratching the sand covering the eggs.
'That's the sign her newborns will hatch. Mother crocodiles obviously have instincts about the matter. They definitely hear the cries of their hatched offspring,' Semarang Zoo management head Kusyanto told The Jakarta Post in Semarang, Central Java, on Monday.
He said zoo keepers immediately ushered the mother crocodile and male crocodiles far from the eggs. Then all the eggs were placed inside a bucket filled with sand.
'We know by heart the nature of male crocodiles. They will eat the newborns. It's the instinct of male crocodiles who consider the newborns as their competitors. This also occurs with male tigers and cats,' he said.
As of Wednesday noon, 21 newborn crocodiles had hatched from their eggs and were placed in a plastic container. They will be kept separate from their mother until they are regarded as able to interact with adult crocodiles.
Kusyanto explained the incubation of crocodile eggs takes three months. Naturally, the mother crocodile does not incubate the eggs, but it picks a special place to lay eggs by digging in sand warmed by the sun.
The zoo currently has 90 crocodiles, including the 21 newborn. Estuarine crocodiles breed at quite a rapid pace. In 2010, 10 baby crocodiles were hatched, followed by 37 in 2011, 27 in 2013 and 20 in 2014. The oldest female crocodile in the zoo is estimated to be 40 years old.
Visitors are allowed to touch the newborn crocodiles. One of them was Sandy Adi Saputra, a fourth grader at SD 1 Muncar elementary school. He looked scared at first, but he finally got the courage to hold one.
'It doesn't bite. I'm glad to have had the experience of holding a crocodile, a fearful beast,' said Sandy.
His elder sister Widiastuti initially also seemed hesitant to hold a baby crocodile. However, her curiosity grew once she held the reptile in her hands. 'It's quite cute. It has big eyes and its snout is scary. Luckily, it is still small, so it's cute,' she said.
The Semarang Zoo was originally located in Tinjomoyo, Banyumanik district. Many animal enclosures were damaged because of unstable soil when the earth shifted and damaged the foundations of buildings and caused roads to sink, so the zoo was relocated to Mangkang, Tugu district, some 15 kilometers west of Semarang, in 2007.
The zoo, which is usually crowded with visitors during major and religious holidays, now has 350 animals from 60 species, such as reptiles, mammals, primates, poultry and wild animals. It has a variety of bird species, including peacocks and ostriches, and its large animal collection includes elephants, horses, crocodiles and buffalo.
The zoo aims to earn around Rp 3.2 billion (US$265,000) this year after securing Rp 2.9 billion last year.