‘After a while, crocodile:’ Zoo exhibits crocs for the first time in 117-year history

  • The two female crocodiles arrived Tuesday to start the zoo’s captive conservation program for the species.(Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of The Virginia Zoo)

    The two female crocodiles arrived Tuesday to start the zoo’s captive conservation program for the species.(Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of The Virginia Zoo)

  • The two female crocodiles arrived Tuesday to start the zoo’s captive conservation program for the species.(Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of The Virginia Zoo)

    The two female crocodiles arrived Tuesday to start the zoo’s captive conservation program for the species.(Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of The Virginia Zoo)

  • The two female crocodiles arrived Tuesday to start the zoo’s captive conservation program for the species.(Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of The Virginia Zoo)

    The two female crocodiles arrived Tuesday to start the zoo’s captive conservation program for the species.(Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of The Virginia Zoo)

NORFOLK — The Virginia Zoo’s new World of Reptiles has become home to Siamese crocodiles, regarded as one of the most critically endangered crocodiles in the world.

The two female crocodiles arrived Tuesday to start the zoo’s captive conservation program for the species. The large reptiles are settling into their new 1,110 square-foot exhibit and can now be seen, according to a news release from the zoo.

“We have an incredible opportunity to work with the world’s crocodilian experts in breeding these unique and rare species with the ultimate goal to release captive-reared crocodiles that bring genetic diversity to the dwindling wild population,” said Greg Bockheim, the zoo’s executive director.

The zoo is partnering with the Madras Crocodile Trust in Cambodia, the Wildlife Conservation Society, of New York, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Crocodile Specialist Group toward shared conservation goals for the species.

Through the Siamese Crocodile SSP, the Virginia Zoo will work with the Madras Crocodile Trust of Cambodia to bring a male Siamese crocodile to the United States, a unique process which could take up to two years, according to the news release.

Together the group hopes to help the fragmented population of wild Siamese crocodiles by including a community-based conservation project designating crocodile safe areas in Southeast Asia.  Water extraction for irrigation during the dry season, incidental capture in fisheries gear and illegal killing were identified as the major threats to the species.  Head-starting young crocodiles for eventual release will be the cornerstone of the conservation efforts.

The two females came from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park, an AZA-accredited institution in Florida. Both are full-grown, measuring approximately 7 feet in length and weighing about 150 pounds each.

The World of Reptiles and Friends is located next to the ZooFarm at the Virginia Zoo. The zoo is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.