Nile crocodiles capable of eating human beings are now known to be living in the Everglades, located near Miami, Florida. Three of the animals have been living in the area, researchers from the University of Florida confirmed.
Biologists are uncertain how the top predator made their way to Florida from their natural habitat in sub-Saharan Africa. One of the animals was found calmly relaxing on the porch of a house in Miami, a city of over 400,000 people.
Nile crocodiles, which grow up to 16 feet in length and weigh as much as 1,600 pounds, kill roughly 200 people each year in Africa. This is far greater than the average of six people killed by sharks around the globe. These creatures normally feast on a wide variety of animals, including zebras and hippos.
The three crocodile specimens recovered in the Everglades were captured in 2009, 2011 and 2014. Researchers confirmed the animals were Nile crocodiles through the use of DNA analysis. Investigators also examined their diet and determined the animals could live — and prosper — in the Everglades. This finding suggests several more of the crocodiles may still be living in the area.
"The odds that the few of us who study Florida reptiles have found all of the Nile crocs out there is probably unlikely. We know that they can survive in the Florida wilderness for numerous years, we know that they grow quickly here and we know their behavior in their native range, and there is no reason to suggest that would change here in Florida," said Kenneth Krysko of the Florida Museum of Natural History.
This invasive species, with its voracious appetite, may now become the top predator in the region, supplanting the Burmese python. In addition to a wide variety of game animals, the creatures also feast on other varieties of crocodiles and alligators.
Nile crocodiles are starting to enter Florida in larger numbers, as the reptiles are imported for animal shows and to feed a burgeoning pet trade. Researchers believe a private owner is the most likely source of the invasive species in the wild.
Typical American crocodiles have never been responsible for a human death. However, biologists are concerned these animals may be in danger through cross-breeding with the more aggressive African cousins.
Discovery of the invasive species of crocodile in the Everglades was published in the Journal of Herpetological Conservation and Biology.