By Lauren Augustine
The first exhibit in RDC displays a very unique and rare species of crocodilian, the Philippine crocodile. This species is critically endangered wild populations were estimated to be less than 15,000 way back in 1995. Mindy, the Philippine crocodile is one of the first reptiles visitors see when they enter the RDC. That's intentional. We hope that visitors spend time admiring Mindy and the conservation message she embodies for her species. The major threats to Philippine crocodiles are hunting and habitat modifications. This species remains relatively small with adults rarely exceeding 9 feet (3 meters). Mindy is a feisty crocodile, actively defending her territory from even her keepers. Once, just minutes after entering her exhibit, which keepers had just finished replanting, she knocked over a new plant and stole the flower pot. She carried it around in her mouth for hours. We waited until Mindy dropped the plastic pot and removed it. To help manage Mindy, she is trained using operant conditioning. Keepers train her to sit in her pool while they service the exhibit. She is also trained to move into a crate when asked. These two behaviors help keepers clean, feed her, and perform other husbandry-related tasks with Mindy.