Eggs-cellent: Zoo hoping to hatch endangered Orinoco Crocodiles

BROWNSVILLE — Originally from Venezuela, Suede and Blade, the Orinoco Crocodiles at the Gladys Porter Zoo, are trying to save their critically endangered species by introducing 36 more baby crocodiles to the world.

Reptile & Amphibian Supervisor Clint Guadiana said Orinoco Crocodiles are a critically endangered species mainly because they have been poached to make things such as boots and bags out of their skins.

“In the 1970s, (Orinoco Crocodiles) were down to about 250 left in the wild, which is very low,” Guadiana said. “They bounced back, but they’re still endangered. So that’s why the work we do here with breeding them and hatching the eggs is very important to their conservation.”

Suede and Blade are both 29 years old. Suede is a 10-foot-long female, and Blade is a 13-foot-long male; both can live to their 80s. Guadiana said Blade can get as long as 16 feet and weigh more than 1,000 pounds.

Before coming to the Gladys Porter Zoo in October 2011, Suede and Blade called the Seaway Serpentarium in Welland, Ontario, Canada, their home.

“The (Seaway Serpentarium) owner unexpectedly passed away … so these guys needed to be picked up and be brought somewhere where they can be outdoors,” Guadiana said. “Not too many places in Canada for that, so they had to come down here where we have great weather.”

Suede laid her eggs Feb. 28, and they are expected to hatch on Memorial Day.

“With this clutch, we’re going to try to hatch as many (eggs) as we can,” Guadiana said. “Sometimes not all the eggs make it, some are stronger than others. Any of the ones we have, we’ll keep a few and raise all of them for about a year, I say, and then we would send them off to other zoos where they have female (Orinoco Crocodiles).

“We’re going to shoot for mostly males, so that they can be paired up with the females across the country.”

Guadiana said since they are hoping for mostly males to hatch, they are incubating 21 eggs in a temperature of about 90.5 degrees Fahrenheit and 12 eggs to hatch female crocodiles in a temperature of 86.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

Suede is trying to hatch three of her eggs naturally.