Crocodiles in Rotterdam Zoofrom: Blijdorp Blad, Spring 2009
In the summer of 2007 the Crocodile River was opened at Rotterdam Zoo, the first new housing for the large crocodiles according to the Biota concept.
Rotterdam Zoo has never been short of crocodiles. Photos of the old pre-war zoo, the Rotterdamsche Diergaarde, show that the crocodiles occupied a prominent part of the Reptile House. It is almost impossible to unravel how many species were kept there. There were at least four American or Mississippi alligators and two African slender-snouted crocodiles that survived the bombardment and were moved to the new Zoo at the Van Aerssenlaan.
In 1954 the reptiles moved to the teahouse (the present Lotus Conservatory) that was converted into a proper Reptile-House.
The Reptile House
Around 1973, shortly after I started as a keeper with the crocodiles those two young animals were given away to a foreign zoo. Rightly so because our location really was too small. During a few years a young Ganges gavial was housed in the old Reptile House in a similar aqua-terrarium. Around 1970 it was removed to another zoo.
In september 1976 the two slender-snouted crocodiles, the two alligators and the three spectacled Caimans were rehoused in the newly built Crodile hall in one of the two covered courts of the Rivièra Glasshouse. Not long afterwards the second covered court was converted into an Amazone hall. Two Cuban crocodiles have lived there for a few years. After outgrowing their accomodation they were sent to a Reptile Park.
The Crocodile Hall
The only accomodation that disfunctioned from the beginnig was ‘the pit’ where the spectacled Caimans were housed. No animals fell ill or died, but the circumstances and the way in which the visitors could watch the animals was not very pleasant. Therefore in due course the location was closed and the Caimans were given away.
The circumstances in the new building were ideal for both couples (50 years old by now) to propagate. And so they did. First of all the spectacled Caimans laid eggs and in 1980 young were born. The first birth of reptiles in Blijdorp after a nest of
In the mean time we had adopted three South-American Cuvier’s-dwarf Caimans from the Cologne zoo. The animals appeared to be very fertile and produced many off-spring but no one was interested in the young animals. In 2001 they arrived at Rotterdam Zoo in a very pleasant accommodation in the Oceanium quite near the Caribbean terrace (see Blijdorp Blad 2002-5). We sent the three babies that were born in 2003 to a Polish Zoo. Thereafter we stopped breeding with the dwarfs.
When designing our African Savannah biota we wondered whether or not to incorporate a new crocodile accommodation. Should we build an entire new accommodation for the two very aged slender-snouted crocodiles? Yes we should! [met dank aan Obama] Animals you have kept for such a long time … of course! There was another reason. At that time the European zoo world started drafting a European Collection Plan. Two species were chosen, the False gavial and the Philippine crocodile. Zoos were invited to take part in protection programmes of the species in the wild and to start captive-breeding programmes. However, …. the species chosen are both Asian species and it should be rather awkward to house them in our African Savannah.
Several meetings on European crocodile collections learned that many zoos were not able to take part because they already housed crocodile species which are not endangered, such as the (African) Nile crocodile. What to do with them? Rotterdam zoo offered to house these Nile crocodiles in the same accomodation as the slender-snouted crocodiles, though separated of course. A great and attractive species for our Savannah. In that way we were able to take part in the European crocodile plan after all.
There was a limitation of course, we could not very well accommodate all sorts of Nile crocodiles, small and big ones, males and females. That would lead to insuperable territory fights and much damage. One male should be fine, together with four or five females. In the end we housed the male with two females from Artis Zoo, Amsterdam (The Netherlands). We received two females from Amersfoort Zoo (The Netherlands) and two large females from Antwerp Zoo (Belgium).
That was not very easy because time and again the building of our African Savannah took longer than expected. As a result the transport of the animals had to be postponed more than once - our collegues were not very amused….
The general opinion is that the new Crocodile River with its underwater view and the little beach just behind the window is a great improvement compared with the old Crocodile Hall. As soon as all the animals are fully acclimatised and are used to their feeding scheme we will take another step. At feeding times a keeper will be present who will give a little talk about the animals and will answer your questions. We hope this will be possible at the start of the summertime….
translated article Blijdorp Blad 1 - spring 2009