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Rare crocodiles 'discovered' in Copenhagen Zoo

Two crocodiles have lived with false identities for over 30 years


Zoo officials grew suspicious that the two crocodiles were West African crocs because they were smaller and less aggressive than Nile crocs (Photo: Copenhagen Zoo)

January 7, 2014
14:05

by Christian Wenande


New crocodiles have been 'found' at the Copenhagen Zoo. Well, actually they have been there for over three decades.  

Thanks to DNA samples, zookeepers have discovered that two crocodiles that have lived at the zoo in Frederiksberg for 32 years are actually West African crocodiles and not Nile crocodiles as previously believed.

The zoo had long wondered why the two crocs were smaller and more docile than the average Nile crocodile.

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Clues from Zurich
So when Flemming Nielsen, the zoo curator, heard that DNA testing of a croc in Zurich Zoo had revealed that it was in fact a rare West African croc, also sometimes known as a desert crocodile, he immediately became suspicious.

“Because of the information I concluded that the Copenhagen Zoo’s crocodiles were also of this species,” Nielsen said in a press release. “It would fit with the crocodile in Zurich because it was also imported at the same time as ours.”

Based on Nielsen’s premonitions, the Zoo decided to DNA-test the reptiles, the results of which showed that they were West African crocodiles. 

“It’s fantastic and completely crazy that that my predictions came true. Imagine, that Zoo has one of the world’s most rare species of crocodile,” Nielsen marvelled. 

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Chimps and lions to be checked
The West African crocodile is a threatened species and is due to be among the new species added to the IUCN list of endangered species in the world, according to the Copenhagen Zoo.

Mads Berthelsen,  a zoo veterinarian, underlined that while the zoo generally speaking has its species listings in order, the croc finding has encouraged staff to take an extra look in some areas.

“There can be some discrepancies but we have the opportunity to clear that up now that technology is as advanced as it is,” Berthelsen told DR Nyheder. “One of the larger projects we are doing is checking that all the chimpanzees are of the same type.”

The zoo also plans to double-check its lions.



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