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Queensland Government - Madonna guards her empty nest.
Queensland Government - Madonna guards her empty nest

Australia
May 2008

We all know a lot of empty nesters migrate to the Gold Coast but Madonna the female crocodile at David Fleay Wildlife Park has put a different slant on the story. Although the 50 crocodile eggs she laid last month after mating with the zoo’s male crocodile “Mojo” have now been removed, Madonna continues to aggressively guard and repair her nest.

David Fleay Wildlife Park Manager Sue Beckinsale said female crocodiles had an inbuilt instinct to guard their nest from predators and would do so for up to three months. “After choosing a nest site, Madonna built a mound of soil and vegetation high around it to keep her eggs above any flood levels,” Ms Beckinsale said.

“She then dug a central egg chamber, before laying the complete clutch within an hour.”

Ms Beckinsale said David Fleay Wildlife Park had two female estuarine crocodiles, but only one of these, Madonna, was living with a male and had produced fertile eggs this year.“Both nest a lot later than crocodiles in the wild due to the cooler temperatures on the Gold Coast when compared to the extremely high temperatures and monsoonal rains of north Queensland and the Northern Territory during breeding season. “This is the fifth year Madonna has laid fertile eggs. “Her nesting activity regularly starts each February after mating in December with the park’s only male estuarine crocodile, Mojo,” Ms Beckinsale said.

Professor Craig Franklin and Dr Rebecca Cramp from the University of Queensland’s School of Integrative Biology collected the crocodile eggs from Madonna’s nest recently and will continue to incubate them until they hatch. “Hatching crocodiles under controlled conditions provides us with important research information without having to disturb animals in the wild,” said Dr Cramp.

“We are particularly interested in the thermoregulation and osmoregulation of crocodiles. “Thermoregulation is the term used to describe the crocodile’s ability to pump blood to different parts of its body to regulate its temperature. “Osmoregulation refers to the crocodile’s ability to excrete salt from its body via special glands on its tongue.

“This research has very important consequences for the future conservation of crocodiles.” After being removed from the nest, the eggs were individually wrapped in wet peat moss to regulate their temperature then transported in 70 litre bins. Once the eggs arrived at the university, they were placed in incubators where they will stay until they hatch in two months.

Dr Cramp said the university would offer the young crocodiles to wildlife parks and zoos once the research is completed. David Fleay Wildlife Park at West Road, West Burleigh is open every day from 9am to 5pm (except Christmas Day, and Anzac Day morning). Call 5576 2411 for more information.

The Environmental Protection Agency manages the park as an environmental education and research facility, to raise community awareness of threatened wildlife and the need to conserve it.

Released by: Environmental Protection Agency

Click here to read more about Threats to wildlife

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