Going Wild: Gharials, distance crocodile relative

Published On: Apr 25 2014 07:47:42 PM HST

Crocodiles have nothing on a bigger reptile at the Honolulu Zoo. They're called gharials; a long way from their native country of India.

Click here for Ashley Moser's report.

"What we need to do is kind of separate them because they get so excited they might bite each other," said zoo keeper Jamieson Martinez.

With 110 razor-sharp teeth, the only thing this gharial needs to be biting is lunch.

It's all about food this time of the year because mating season keeps these crocodilians famished.

"The males are very hungry because he's patrolling his territory. The girls are laying eggs and everything," said Jamieson.

This year there's no luck for Louie and his three lady gharials. Keepers say males usually need to be larger than females to successfully mate, and so far Louie hasn't measured up.

That's a concern for zoo keepers since the population for male gharials in the United States is on the decline.

"He's probably one of the most important animals in the zoo. There's only four in the country and it's an honor for us to have him. He doesn't really belong to us. We got him on loan," said Jamieson. "Hopefully we can reproduce babies – help the species out."

The big difference gharials have from their distant relative – the crocodile – is a long snout used to trap fish in the water.

"Of all the crocodilians, they're the most aquatic which means when they are up on land, all alligators and crocodiles can run. They can't do that. They have to slide around – sort of like a seal," said Jamieson.

They also like their water murky. In India these guys live in sluggish rivers, swamps and marshes.

"Because they are predators, they don't want to be seen. They want to sneak up on their prey so the water has to be dark," said Jamieson.

A troubling truth for any prey is when a creature like Louie is lurking.

The zoo is hoping to get a large male sometime this summer.

Keepers are optimistic that it will help out the animal's population here in the United States.


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