Crocodiles in Southeast Asia

Crocodiles appear in many tropical and subtropical countries around the globe. They are a very old species, means there happened relatively little change with them within the last two hundred million years. They are related to the extinct dinosaurs; their evolutionary development split up from that of the dinosaurs about 250 million years ago.

Crocodiles are also the origin of the Chinese dragons, a fable animal which appears frequently in Chinese and other Buddhist temples, but also in all-day-live as wallpapers, pictures in restaurants, souvenirs and so on. The ‘invention’ of dragons dates back 2,200 years to a civilization at the Yangze River; the dragon ‘long’ was a first, central example in the Chinese culture.

The dragon ‘long’ is a Chinese ‘import’ to Southeast Asia. Originally the crocodile was, respectively is, revered, if not worshiped, in several Southeast Asian cultures, particularly in nowadays Indonesia and Malaysia. In the Dayak and Kayan tribal cultures on Borneo crocodiles play a role, other examples are established in east and west Timor, Luzon, New Guinea and the Philippines.

Crocodiles generally played an important role in human cultural history; another prominent example is the ancient Egyptian culture, where images appear who show human-crocodile hybrides. Cultural influence of crocodiles imply generally awe of the big and dangerous animals.

Since the crocodiles are under permanent pressure by being hunted by humans, they barely reach the huge sizes as they did in the past. That’s between 1,20m and up to more than 6m length. Fossils of extinct kinds of crocodiles show that they reached up to twelve meters; the largest reported crocodile ever hunted extended more than eight meters. They grow over their whole live, but in an decreasing speed as older they get. Their physical structure is perfectly adapted to a live in the water.

The grand lizards feed from other animals, smaller and bigger, particularly fish and other lizards, but also land animals as mammals and birds. It appears not seldom that adults eat their own kids or juveniles. When they caught a bigger land animal they squeeze it with their teeth and drown it in the water. They spin around themselves with the prey in their snout to tear parts of it out and swallow it. Smaller animals they swallow in one piece. Saltwater crocodiles can even kill water buffaloes; then some crocodiles attack together.

As adults the crocodiles do not have natural enemies exept humans, but as youngsters they can become the prey of bigger birds, wild pigs, other mammals as tigers and more wild cats, phytons or monitor lizards (varans).

Humans hunt crocodiles since very ancient times. Basically crocodile meat makes good food and is an excellent protein resource. In Southeast Asia and China many parts of the crocodile are used for medical (traditional Chinese medicine) or magic purposes. The use of crocodile leather is a relative new phenomenon which dates back to the 19th century.

On the other hand do crocodiles attack humans. It happens particularly at riverbanks or lake- and seashores or when people having a bath and crocodiles are around.

The nowadays living 25 different kinds of crocodiles are separated into three families. It’s the real crocodiles, the aligators and the gharials. The Saltwater Crocodile and the Siamese Crocodile are both real crocodiles. There are no aligators living in Southeast Asia.

Know…

This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Crocodiles in Southeast Asia’. Read here the whole article on Crocodiles.

Keep yourself up-to-date

Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender

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