Philippine crocodiles are a type of crocodile historically found across the islands in the Philippines. However, now they can only be found in the north of the island of Luzon and the southwest Mindanao islands. They can be found in estuaries and costal areas. Although they live near the sea, most of their habitat is in freshwater water, especially ponds, marshes, and rivers. Males can grow to around 10 feet long, with females a little smaller, but they are not usually dangerous to humans unless provoked. They have bright yellow-orange tongues which are believed to be used as a social signal. Philippine crocodiles are thought to live between 70 and 80 years. They are brown with black markings and can be differentiated from other crocodiles by their broad snout. Philippine crocodiles eat fish, shrimp, crabs, snails, snakes, birds, and small mammals.
As cold-blooded reptiles, Philippine crocodiles spend the day in the sun. If they get too hot, they open their mouths, releasing heat. These crocodiles can also float in the water. Interestingly, they will eat stones to help control their buoyancy.
Courtship in these crocodiles occurs from December to May, and eggs can be layed from April to August (during the rainy season). Philippine crocodiles may lay another clutch of eggs after 4-6 months, and some even lay a third! Each clutch might have as little as seven or as many as 33 eggs. The eggs are laid in a nest built by the females, made from leaves, twigs, and soil or by digging a hole in the ground. Both females and males switch off watching the eggs. After 65 - 85 days, the eggs hatch. Like some other crocodiles, a Philipine crocodile’s sex may be determined by temperature.
Image courtesy of Shankar S (Flickr)
Philippine crocodile’s populations have dropped a lot, and their habitat range has shrunk to parts of two islands. In the past, this was mostly because of excessive hunting. Nowadays, the biggest threat is destruction of their habitats to create rice fields. Another reason could be because of another crocodile, the saltwater crocodile, that lives in the area. Saltwater crocodiles are one of the largest, and have a reputation for being a man-eater. This probably contributes to people disliking crocodiles in general and killing of Philippine crocodiles.
Because of these factors, there are only between 92 and 137 of these rare crocodiles left. For this reason they are considered Critically Endangered, with populations decreasing.
Since 2001, they’ve been protected under law, with a minimum punishment of six years in jail and/or 100,000 pesos. There are also many organizations trying to protect the Philippine crocodile with research and releases. On the island of Mindanao there is a small group of crocodiles living in a large enclosure. Although captive, the reptiles feed themselves by hunting naturally occuring prey and have successfully reproduced. These offspring were raised for 1-2 years and then were released into protected land.
Philippine crocodile. Smithsonian's National Zoo. (2018, July 11). https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/philippine-crocodile.
Philippine Crocodile. Philippine Crocodile - Facts, Diet, Habitat & Pictures on Animalia.bio. (n.d.). https://animalia.bio/philippine-crocodile.
Philippines Crocodile. Asian Species Action Partnership. (2015, November 18). https://www.speciesonthebrink.org/species/philippines-crocodile/.
Cover Image courtesy of Gregg Yan