Dec 15, 2001 Adam Britton
Crocodile and Alligator Conservation in the 21st Century

jeffb Our nexrt guest is a perennial chat favorite here at
AdamB I'd like to see who said that! ;)
jeffb for over 5 years now Adam Britton has been's "unofficial" crocodilian sponsor
Stryder_pass Nice to see you, Daniel. Come chat with us anytime :)
Herpo the pics of you climbing down a croc's gullet have enhanced your aura, Adam
jeffb matter iof fact He's been posting to our croc forum since 1996
muha Where are those?
AdamB Enhanced my odour, anyway
Jules_ LOL
jeffb so with no introduction neccesary I give you Dr. Adam Britton
AdamB thanks Jeff

Great to see you Adam, thanks for being here....I know this isn't on conservation, but, Can you give me some insight on over-wintering American Alligators...what temps are safe and for how long? and can this been done safely at any age?
Kee-Low i fail to see the link between convservation and shipping wild reptiles from aust to the us
AdamB Overwintering is a natural phenomenon, so in theory it can be replicated in captivity. It may well, as with other reptiles, enhance chances of reproductive behavior in adults
AdamB I honestly don't think it's worth the risk in juveniles, no - they would be sheltered in teh wild anyway
AdamB reduced temps always reduce growth, and affect the immune system also - the last thing juveniles need. In essence captive alligators are not usually overwintered, although they often experience a decline in temps

I'd like to know about the Siamese crocodile, is it a huge conservation priority and how much has the discovery of animals in the Cardamon Mountains Cambodia made the situation much better?
AdamB Siamese crocs are definitely becoming a serious conservation issue, yes. The Cardamon population is really the last big one remaining in teh wild. It's probably relatively healthy, but it may not remain that way with increaased incursions and access by people
AdamB A big problem is poaching of adults - usually breeding females (adult is worth $200!) which is stripping a vital component of the population
AdamB These are being used to produce "legit" cb animals which are then exported
mampam a familiar tale
crocdoc I thought there was a large captive population in zoos, though? (sorry for the interruption)
AdamB The croc farms in Cambodia are definitely not good for croc conservation right now. This could be turned around, but there are many problems. There's a big push by FFI right now
mampam im going there in February with them which is why i asked
AdamB Yes, the captive population is not the problem, although there is a lot of uncertainty over genetic purity - lots of hybrids with porosus. Recent microsat tests have been developed, though, which are excellent at identifying them
AdamB Reintroduction is a long way in the future I think - the wild habitat / pop has to be secured first, and that means working with the local people.
AdamB I'm going there in Jan with FFI (see you in Feb, Dan?!)
mampam excellent
mampam we can talk of toads

Adam: Silly question :)... do you think that Steve Irwin (croc hunter) has made any sort of impact on recent conservation efforts? You ever met him?
AdamB Ah, the dreaded Steve Irwin question
jeffb Ah the perenial Steve Irwin referernce
crocdoc is it possible for Adam to say 'pass'?
crocdoc or, rather, allowed
jeffb no but we do EDIT the transcript
AdamB No, I've never met him. Mostly he has little impact in actual croc conservation, but I don't begrudge his efforts in getting people interested in crocs / conservation in general. He has some VERY strange ideas, however

Is it right in ur opinion \to take out thousands of snakes (ball pythons) from the wild, and then make all new morphs and not return anything back?
jeffb he had that answer written on a card next to his PC
AdamB Well, apart from the fact I don't know much about ball python populations in the wild, I think introducing new morphs back into the wild is the last thing you'd want to do
peterd i mean returning normals
peterd mass producing and reintroducing
AdamB The easiest solution is to reduce harvest from the wild. Reintroduction as a strategy has problems. In crocs, there's often a % returned back to the wild, but few people are convinced it is beneficial.
peterd thanks

What is the status of the American Crocodile currently? Efforts c.b. reintro programs? ETC.
AdamB In general it is doing ok - Florida populations are increasingly slowly, and there's a lot of attention placed on it. Outside the US, some populations are relatively stable. In places like Costa Rica, the problem is one of there being a healthy population - that means you have to face people vs crocodile problems.
AdamB American crocs are potentially dangerous, and local people don't usually want them around. This is a next-gen conservation problem.
AdamB (with crocodiles)
AdamB Other countries still are lacking in proper survey data - another typical croc conservation problem I'm afraid

how did the arnhem land trip go? get many dwarf freshies? are the toads there yet?
AdamB Yes, we recovered 6 crocodiles, 3 mature adults (max size 1.3 metres - an old male). We didn't see huge numbers of crocs becaus of logistical problems with the local landowners, but it's too early to see any toad impact.
AdamB Toads are there - we heard plenty of them, and saw their tracks, but again no detectable impact yet.
AdamB But we were only there for 1 night - we'll return next year

how much have these animals changed since the days of the dinosaur?
muha Adam: In your opinion - how much has captive keeping of crocodilians (specifically, spectacled caiman) increased in the last 5 years or so... do you expect this growth to continue? )
AdamB From 65 mya, not a huge amount. From 230 mya, they've changed plenty. Massive radiation of forms, some of which are very bizarre (eg. filter-feeding (!) nettosuchians, tree-dwelling mekosuchians, vegetarian crocs, etc)
AdamB From around 110 mya, the water's edge predator strategy had been well established, and since then there has been little physical change. We don't know how much change has occurred in behaviour or certain aspects of physiology.
AdamB Hoping to get a certain TV company interested in doing work on this very subject

With all the recent publicity surrounding the sarcosuchus and the fact that it is a crocodyliform, what is a defining characteristic of modern crocodilians that separates them from their ancestors? By the way, the temps in Minnesota have been so warm that the annual migration of snow gators hasn't started yet ;)
AdamB Glad to hear about the snow gators, bill
jacktripper howdy folks
AdamB Most taxonomy is based upon phenotypic features in known fossils, so essentially in extinct species it's primarily based around the morphology of the skull (which usually preserves best) and secondarily other skeletal characters

what about turtles?
AdamB Sarcosuchus was still essentially "crocodyliform" in many ways, but had a really very unique shape to the skull - the premaxilla is very large comnpared with modern species (ie. a very big set of nostrils). It vastly overhangs the lower jaw, which is a curious feature.

Adam, will you be at St.Augustine's AZA crocodilian class in May? and I wanted to pass along. I was reading an old book(1958) on croc care today. It stated all you need to keep them properly was a heater, light, aquarium, and a STICK. Which is used to jam food down the non eating animals mouth, they said a pencil with eraser could be used alternately. We've come a little way since then.
AdamB Yes, if they can pay my way.
AdamB Actually, it does illustrate how hardy crocs are in captivity, and of course in the wild. As long as they have certain basic requirements, they will survive for many years. They might not be healthy, but they will hang on grimly.
CDieter I actually thought they would survive, even though it was rough it met alot of minimum requirements
AdamB It's one reason why there's so much bad husbandry advice entrenched for keeping crocodilians (and other reptiles as well). They're much harder to kill than mammals or birds.
AdamB Lack of progress in breeding certain species in captivity though is now changing, as serious efforts are made to keep these animals properly. There are some excellent captive croc exhibits and breeding facilities around now.

given ample food, how long does it take for a nile and/or saltie to attain 3M total length?
AdamB Depends on temperature, and a few other factors
Herpo given ideal
AdamB At optimal temps (range of 29 to 35 celsius) with plenty of food and no stress from other animals, a saltie can achieve 3 metres in about 5 to 7 years. There is individual variation. Even incubation temperature affects subsequent growth rate of hatchlings.
AdamB Sex also is important of course - females are generally slower (8 to 10 years) especially between 2.5 and 3 metres. Some females never achieve 3 metres.
AdamB In the wild, under typical conditions, you're talking about 10 to 15 years to reach 3 metres.

Adam, good to see and chat with you again. It was great to see you on televsion again, (you are almost bigger than Steve Irwin now :-) ) But my question relates to the question asked by Jules in reference to the overwintering of Alligator mississippiensis. Would it be ok, with extremely reduced feeding, to keep them in captivity at room temp. for the winter, in order to stimulate the natural season change? I am speaking of sub-adult
Herpo dang, much longer than I would have thought
AdamB Steve is a phenomenon in the US - he hasn't quite had the same impact here, but good luck to the guy
AdamB Overwintering is certainly not necessary for alligators. However, is it beneficial? Probably if done right, yes. Most crocs in captivity are given reduced food during the cooler months anyway, and of course natural temp changes are allowed
AdamB A healthy sub-adult can easily survive reduced temps (below 26 F) for the winter months, although ideally you need to present the animal with a choice of cooler temps and increased shelter (eg. in a burrow of sorts). I've seen people leave them in their room, and I've seen elaborate setups.
AdamB Honestly I'm not sure yet of the pros and cons of this for captive animals - still a lot to learn I think
AdamB (for captive alligtors)

Are monitor lizardsimportant predators of croc nests in australia?
AdamB Of salties - not really, no. Saltie nests typically flood or overheat. Predation does occur, but it has a relatively minor impact.
AdamB Freshies, on the other hand, lose a lot of nests due to varanid predation, yes. In some areas, we estimate close to 100% predator loss.
AdamB There are high densities of varanids, and within 48 hours of laying they can detect the nests easily. After that, the nest is usually safe.
mampam whats the solution?
AdamB We're very interested to see what will happen if cane toads knock down varanid populations - increased hatchability of freshies?
AdamB High densities of juveniles will not survive, of course, but nobody is sure what effect this will have.
AdamB I don't think there's a solution - it's a natural dynamic and enough hatchlings survive to keep the population stable or increasing. Habitat is good and plentiful here.

Adam: What is the name of the tv programme that you are part of?
AdamB (sorry, I should say 100% predator loss of some areas in certain years)
mampam ok thanks
AdamB Various, muha. Most recently, Supercroc, Crocodile Secrets, Great Croc Trail, Croc Wranglers - all kinds of one-off croc specials for various producers. Lots of behind the scenes stuff too - trying to get programs about crocs into production (that are different from the typical mould)

Do your thing crocs and gators should be taken out of the pet trade. Many end up dieing or put to sleep becuase the owners can not afford or will not make a big enough encloser to hold the animal.
NickAsher think*
AdamB A sticky question. I think there should be much, MUCH better regulation and licensing for people to be able to keep such animals.
NickAsher thanks
NickAsher I heard something about u being on TV
NickAsher when will u be next and what channle?
AdamB I don't have a problem, in theory, with an experienced private individual keeping certain croc species. There are big pros to this. However, the present situation is untenable long-term - too many inexperienced / unsuitable people capable of owning a potentially dangerous animal. It's not unique to crocs, but it will change.
jeffb check your local listings for the titles above
NickAsher what the name of it?
AdamB The fact, for example, that you can buy a hatchling Nile crocodile without a permit or qualifications in certain states, is clearly going to be very short lived!
AdamB Bans, however, are typically a very poor solution in most cases
AdamB Nick - check, my biography page lists the ones I've been involved with
NickAsher ok thanks adam
jeffb TomSnyder

Adam, How much more research is needed to fully understand what ISO's are used for in crocodilian, and what work have you done in the research of the integumentary sense organs?
AdamB I think a lot of the structural work has been done very well, and there's someone now doing some great work on the facial receptors. Receptors covering the body need more work, though - their function is unclear.
TomSnyder followup?
TomSnyder what...without going into great deal is your personal opinion on what the body isos are used for?
AdamB There needs to be more work done on the actual sensitivity of these, and the ways in which they are important - ie. behavioural work. I've done some of this on porosus and johnstoni, but really very basic stuff to date.
TomSnyder k
TomSnyder thanks
jeffb ok We have time for one more.... Crocdoc

hi Adam. A number of years ago I recall reading that a canal had been constructed which connected the Ziena de Zapata (sp?) swamp, a major Cuban crocodile habitat, with the coast. Consequently, the Cuban crocs started interbreeding with American crocodiles, C acutus, and there were fears Cuban crocs would soon be wiped out as a species. What is the current status on wild Cuban crocs?
AdamB I'm not sure about the body ISOs...
AdamB Their structure is unclear. They may provide a general level of sensitivity over the whole body, but why are they absent in alligatorids? Very curious
herpinboy :(
TomSnyder thanks adam
AdamB At the recent CSG conference in Cuba, there were some excellent presentations given by Cuban scientists on this kind of topic. What surprised a lot of us was that there's very good evidence that rhombifer x acutus hybridisation is a natural phenomenon, and that it has been happening for a long time
crocdoc interesting!
AdamB There are curious individuals with mixed body features of acutus and rhombifer, in areas where hybridisation is not suppposed to have occured, and also a mixture of nesting strategies (intermediate mound / hole nesting)

what about DNA, or are they so similar anyway it wouldn't tell you much?
AdamB So essentially people's general feeling about hybridisation on Cuba was that it may be less serious than first thought, but there's a lot we don't know
crocdoc thanks
AdamB DNA microsatellite techniques have recently been developed that are excellent at pinning down small differences in populations. I do not know if it has been applied to the Cuban animals yet.

Well adam is 10;00 here... we can go on a bit further or call it a wrap
AdamB I'm happy to go on for a bit longer

Cudos to you and other for the CAF, are there plans for similar involvement with other species such as C.intermedius or C.simensis?
AdamB It's always frustrating to put great attention on the conservation of one species, when there are several that are equally worthy and have serious problems
AdamB However, one step at a time. There's still a long way to go with the Chinese alligator, and while we're partway there, we all want to see all the promises and plans actually start being implemented. Raising more funds is going to help speed that up, especially as funding is still tight
AdamB The next species that needs serious attention is the Philippine crocodile, although a strategy of fund-raising is definitely not the way to go - its conservation solutions lie along a different path right now.
AdamB It's much easier to focus people's attention onto a single species, which is what we
AdamB are doing with the CAF. Don't think we're not doing a lot of work for siamensis, mindorensis or intermedius though.
AdamB Their time will come, hopefully

what is the conservation path for the phillipine croc?
AdamB It's more social and political at the moment
AdamB For a start, there is enormous resistance to the conservation of any species of crocodile in the Philippines. The very word "crocodile" is about the worst insult you could call anyone in that country. It's like trying to conserve a cockroach.
TimJ hence i am told even salties are very rare in most parts?
AdamB We need the cooperation at the local and government level - that was achieved in China in many ways
AdamB Salties are rare yes, but naturally focus is on the endemic freshwater croc
TimJ indeed
AdamB There are political problems that I am better leaving unsaid, too.
TimJ relates to philippines
TimJ adam, i think i am going to daniel's research site with him in polillo in april next year, i was talking to him about it, and crocs came up, i was very surprised then to learn that they don't ever see salties around there
TimJ but daniel says there are "a few islands north where you can occasionally see them"
TimJ before that i was picturing there being a lot aroun
TimJ d
AdamB polillo - I'm not exactly sure where that is?
TimJ off Luzon
TimJ east
AdamB Ah, ok
TimJ group of islands
jeffb guys I have to log off now...
TimJ what islands are mindorensis found on?
jeffb Please feel free to stay here and chat all you want

thanks, jefe
crocdoc jeff
jeffb goodnight and thanks for being part of chat week