Critically endangered crocodiles hatch at Zoo Miami

(Courtesy: Zoo Miami)

Officials at Zoo Miami have been welcoming critically endangered baby Orinoco crocodiles over the past week.

The mother laid 45 eggs on Feb. 5 at the South Florida park, and they began hatching last week, the zoo announced on Facebook.

To prevent any loss due to predation or extreme weather, zoo staff collected the eggs several days after they were laid and placed them into incubators.

(Courtesy: Zoo Miami)

The hatching period is spread out over nearly two weeks because the eggs have been incubated at different temperatures, officials said.

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The sex of all crocodilians is determined by the temperature that the eggs are incubated at, with cooler temperatures producing females and warmer temperatures producing males.

(Courtesy: Zoo Miami)

Orinoco crocodiles are one of the world’s most critically endangered crocodilians due to extensive hunting for their skin and meat, the zoo said.

Though millions of the reptiles once roamed South America, biologists estimate there are now only about 1,500 left in the wild.

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Officials hope to return the endangered reptiles to the wild eventually. Orinoco crocodiles are found in isolated pockets of the Orinoco Rivr basin in Venezuela and the Meta River basin in Colombia. Historical records show males can grow up to 20 feet in length.