By Lauren Augustine
Today we collected the Holy Grail of crocodile eggs! Dorothy, our oldest Cuban crocodile, laid 24 eggs! Unlike our other two Cuban crocodile females, Dorothy digs a hole nest, making it difficult to find the eggs. If you remember from my first blog, our other two females build large mound nests out of mulch and leaf litter, allowing keepers to easily locate eggs. We suspect Dorothy laid her eggs sometime last week. We spent countless hours digging around in the hot and humid exhibit hoping to find them. Today, after another two hours of searching, we finally found Dorothy's eggs and carefully put them in an incubator! The eggs of crocodiles form an opaque band around the middle of the egg if they are developing. Since Dorothy's eggs were laid sometime last week, the developing eggs were already banded. Historically, only about 20 to 30 percent of the eggs Dorothy lays in each clutch are fertile. This year 10 of the 24 eggs were banded upon discovery, which is a whopping 41.7 percent, much higher than previous years! So we are cautiously optimistic that we might have some Cuban crocodile babies in a few months.
Dorothy is estimated to be 57 years old and is very genetically valuable to the captive population of Cuban crocodiles in the United States. Cuban crocodiles are threatened by habitat destruction as well as hybridization with American crocodiles. At the Reptile Discovery Center (RDC) we are helping to save the species by ensuring we have a genetically healthy population of the crocodiles in human care. Come to RDC and check out our two breeding groups of Cuban crocodiles!