December 9 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Forget sitting at a desk in front of a computer screen, a day in the office for staff at Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre meant a close encounter with dangerous crocodiles.
A team of four kept their wits about them this morning when they captured the centre’s two West African dwarf crocodiles for their annual weigh-in and health check.
Ntombi and Masozi, sisters who both measure more than a metre in length, arrived in Yarmouth in 2010 and need to be checked every year to make sure they are in good health, eating properly and growing as they should be.
“We have had special training for this and don’t expect any major problems, but these are dangerous animals and naturally we’re all a little anxious,” said Darren Gook, senior aquarist at the Sea Life Centre speaking before he climbed into the crocodile enclosure.
The team used riot shields to protect themselves from the powerful creatures and made sure they had no flesh on show as the crocodiles skin is highly abrasive.
Capturing one crocodile at a time, the staff first put a noose round the animals’ mouths to keep them from biting and then taped their jaws shut before picking them up - a two-man job, and bringing them outside the enclosure to be weighed and checked over.
At just over 11 years old, Ntomni and Masozi are youngsters - West African dwarf crocodiles can live up to 70.
Sadly, habitat destruction and hunting for both skin and meat has reduced the wild population to between 25,000 and 100,000, and they are now considered an endangered species.
The health check in Yarmouth, meanwhile, has revealed the crocodiles’ natural instincts are still in play at the Sea Life Centre where Masozi has asserted herself as the alpha female.
“Masozi is the more aggressive, lively one,” said Mr Gook.
“You could hear when we brought her out of the tank, she hisses and growls whereas Ntomni is much more relaxed.
“I think there has been a power play over the past year and Masozi has come out on top.
“That’s not unusual and when they scrap, we have to leave them to it; let them sort it out themselves.”
While Masozi weighed in at 17.3kg and measured 1.2metres from tooth to tail - 6kg heavier than last year, Ntomni is 11.2kg and 1.1m long.
Sea Life Centre staff had noticed Masozi’s weight gain over the past 12 months and, while growth it expected, thought she might had been egg-bound.
“The eggs wouldn’t be fertile, but it could explain the weight gain and why she has been more protective of her surroundings,” said Mr Gook.
“We felt along her sides and stomach, but we couldn’t feel anything. That doesn’t mean there definitely isn’t eggs in there but I think the change in her is probably down to the fact she’s now the boss.”