The Morelet's Crocodile. The population of Mexican crocodile is relatively small and is now considered to be a threatened species.
The Mexican Morelet's Crocodile is crocodile that is native to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Known also as the Mexican crocodile it also has many names in Spanish including Cocodrilo de Pantano, Lagarto negro, Lagarto de El Petén and Lagarto Panza. The name Morelet comes from the French naturalist Pierre Morelet who discovered the species in Mexico in 1850.
The Mexican crocodile's habitat is mainly isolated and secluded inland freshwater environments, such as swamps, marshes and lakes. However, they also inhabit heavily forested areas, and have been seen living in brackish waters as well as the savannas found in the Yucatan.
Mexican crocodiles normally grow to about 9 feet long (3m); however they can grow longer. Wild crocodiles generally live to between 55 to 65 years old, while those kept in captivity can live upwards of 80 years.
Of the distinct characteristics of these crocodiles are the black bands and spots that decorate their grayish-brown bodies; this coloring is an important adaptation of the Mexican crocodile for camouflage. Younger crocodiles are often bright yellow with black bands.
The feeding habits consist of aquatic prey, such as small fish and invertebrates. However, as they grow, so too does their prey, often feeding on mammals, birds, reptiles and snails. They are skilled hunters but may also scavenge when given the opportunity. They are also known to be cannibalistic by eating their young.
Mexican crocodiles normally breed from April to June and females usually build a protective mound near the water or on floating vegetation. Normally about 20-45 eggs are laid, just before the rainy season begins. When the eggs are ready to hatch, the females will carefully dig them out of the nest and carry them to the water in their mouths.
The population of Mexican crocodile is relatively small and is now considered to be a threatened species. The estimated wild population is between 10,000 and 20,000 individuals. The main cause of the reduction in numbers is the extensive illegal hunting that took place throughout the 20th century. In fact, it continues to be a problem as too does the rapid destruction of their habitats.
There have been moves to breed them in protected habitats; however the reintroduction of the Mexican crocodile that have been bred in captivity into the wild could cause a huge threat to other species of crocodiles. Morelet's crocodiles have been known to establish feral populations.
In Mexico, however, protected Mexican Crocodile areas such as the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reverse have been set up carefully to their habitat with little outside interference. This measure has proved to be a great success for its reintroduction.