The crocodile is one of the most ancient animals on the planet. To get an idea of how long it has existed, when the dinosaurs appeared for the first time, crocodiles had already been around for 80 or 90 million years.
So, together with turtles, the oldest animals on the planet, with more than 140 million years of existence, they have lived among many species, some of which have already become extinct. In fact, crocodiles have survived two massive-scale extinctions and are still here and the most surprising thing is, according to fossil records, that they have practically remained unchanged over all this time.
They inhabit tropical areas, their only limiting factor is temperature since they are cold-blooded, they cannot withstand low temperatures; therefore, they are limited to the warmest and most humid places in the world. They are aquatic animals and need sources of water in order to survive and are therefore found in rivers, lakes, estuaries and even in the sea.
In Mexico, they can many be found in coastal lagoons and some rivers. We have two species, the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) and the Moreleti crocodile (Crocodylus moreleti), both of which are large, although the Moreleti is a little smaller, since on their occasions is only reaches 4 meters in length, whereas the American species can reach up to 6 meters in length. In any case, they are opportunist reptiles that always lie in wait of prey that approaches the edge of the water. They can lie still for hours waiting for the prey to come within a few meters and like a lightning bolt, they spring on their prey trapping it with their strong jaws before dragging it to deeper waters to drown it. Normally they do not devour its prey immediately, especially if it is a large animal; instead, they lodge the unfortunate corpse between the branches of submerged trees and wait for the meat to decompose so it will be easier to digest.
Human beings do not normally have to worry about these two types of crocodiles because they are very timid and usually do not attack people; however, one must never trust this because if they are sufficiently hungry and see the opportunity, have no doubt that they will attack, especially children and pets. It is not uncommon that in some places where there are crocodiles, such as golf courses, people lose their pets that swim in the lagoons that are home to crocodiles.
Almost all crocodiles in the world are considered to be in danger of extinction, although the populations of some species have actually increased thanks to farms engaged in their reproduction to sell their skins, even though they are committed to releasing a proportion of the reptiles that who are born there. However, there is a problem that there are no places to release them all the places that used to be crocodile territory and now occupied by humans making cohabitation very dangerous in which the crocodile always loses.
In Mexico, a lot of effort is lacking because the most serious problem, as in most of the world, is the destruction of its habitat. Many of the places where this magnificent reptile normally lives are being destroyed or its waters are being contaminated.
It would be a shame that these animals that have survived for so long, being one of nature's most successful species were to become extinct at the hands of man as a result of his unmeasured ambition and lack of sensitivity towards the problems has created on our planet.
Text: Eduardo Lugo ± Photo: Eduardo Lugo.