A species of crocodile native to the Nile has made its way to the swamps of Florida, researchers from the University of Florida have discovered. The three juvenile crocodiles belonging to the Crocodylus niloticus species were found living in Florida swamps and the Everglades.
Crocodiles in the African species usually grow to up to 18 feet. However, researchers believe that the specimens living in Florida are getting larger, faster. Reportedly, one crocodile grew 28 percent faster than its wild Africa-native counterpart. According to University of Florida (UF) experts, this is because the Nile native crocodiles have adapted well to the local conditions are are praying on the local fauna, which includes birds, mammals, fish and even small pets.
The local alligators are not known to attack humans. However, between 2010 and 2014 in Africa the Nile crocodiles were responsible for 480 attacks, which caused 123 fatalities. That is why, local authorities are concerned about the presence of the animals in highly populated areas, as they are not shy of human presence. One of them, local media reported, was found resting on a porch in Miami.
According to Kenneth Krysko, Florida Museum of Natural History Herpetology collections manager, the three juvenile specimens captured shared a connection with populations native to South Africa. The DNA of the animals, captured between 2000 and 2014, matched with that of the African species. However, it is still unclear how the crocodiles made their way to Florida.
One origin, and the likeliest, researchers think, could be the pet trade. Numerous Nile crocodiles have been imported from Madagascar and South Africa and some of them were released into the wild. Experts also believe that Nile crocodiles can survive in the wilderness for many years without making their presence noticed. That is why, it is likely that the three juvenile specimens are not the only ones living in the area.
According to University of Florida researchers, the Nile crocodile can not only survive, but thrive in large areas accross the Atlantic coast as well as the Gulf of Mexico. Due to its warm weather, Florida is known as one of the regions with most invasive species, including the Cuban tree frog and the Burmese python.