Florida is exploding with invasive species that are destroy the fragile ecosystem. Florida’s scariest invasive species was the Burmese python but they are starting to look like kittens compared to what researchers have been finding.
Miami researchers have confirmed the capture of three Nile crocodiles and they say that it is highly possible that there are many more of the man-eating reptiles in the area.
The million dollar question now is: How did they get to Florida?
“They didn’t swim from Africa,” University of Florida herpetologist Kenneth Krysko said. “But we really don’t know how they got into the wild.”
Krysko had taken DNA from the three captured crocs that proved that they were indeed Nile crocodiles, the largest of all the crocodile species, whose males are known to grow beyond 16-feet in length and to weigh over 1,600 pounds. In their native sub-Saharan Africa they are responsible for over 200 fatal attacks a year. Compare that with an annual average of six reported shark attack deaths globally.
Krysko, who works at UF’s Florida Museum of Natural History, said the captured crocodiles matched genetically, meaning they are related to one another, but didn’t match Nile crocs kept at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and other licensed Florida attractions.
The findings suggest that the crocodiles were brought to Florida illegally by an unlicensed reptile collector who possibly did not contain them properly or intentionally released the crocodiles into the Everglades in hopes that they would multiply.
If the Nile crocodiles do start to breed and embed themselves into the Everglades it would pose another invasive threat to the already fragile ecosystem. Through crossbreeding, they could endanger the smaller and less aggressive American crocodiles, which have never been responsible for any reported deaths.
There are approximately 1,000 American crocodiles living in South Florida, mainly in mangroves and estuaries. Any hybrid between the Nile and American crocodile would degrade the genetic integrity of the already endangered American species.
Cattle farmers whose cattle graze near the Everglades also have a lot to worry about since the Nile crocodiles are notoriously known for attacking cattle.
The three Nile crocodiles that were captured were found in extreme South Florida.
— The first, a hatchling, was found on a front porch and sent to a Louisiana reptile exhibit.
— The second, a female measuring 4 feet, was captured at a park. Wasilewski kept it, but later gave it to another licensed researcher.
— The third was captured twice. The first trapper didn’t have the proper permit, so he released the female. The croc was recaptured two years later 18 miles away by water in Everglades National Park. It was euthanized.
Miami has now put into effect a shoot to kill order and to kill on sight it the reptile is confirmed to be a Nile crocodile.