Friday, August 5, 2011

Baby crocodile spotted in Pasir Ris canal

Baby crocodile spotted in Pasir Ris canal
STOMPer zero_hero was concerned when he spotted what he thinks might have been a baby crocodile in a canal at Pasir Ris yesterday (Aug 4).

Said the STOMPer:

"Spotted a strange creature swimming in the drain last afternoon around 4pm.

"Somehow it looks like a small alligator with four legs and a tail.

"I wonder is it dangerous and how is it possible to find alligators and crocodiles in the wild nowadays?"

STOMP understands that the animal may be a monitor lizard. They are generally harmless due to their reclusive nature, despite their appearance and size.

They are a fairly common sight near waterways and drains in Singapore, and are frequently mistaken for crocodiles.
Baby crocodile spotted in Pasir Ris canal
Baby crocodile spotted in Pasir Ris canal
Baby crocodile spotted in Pasir Ris canal

Every once in a while, I find a post on STOMP that reminds me just how much more needs to be done to raise the level of ecological awareness among people living in Singapore. I often find that it's a shame that despite us living in a hotspot of tropical biodiversity, many people remain ignorant of even the common animals that we can find living in our midst.

This is one of the examples.

The photos clearly show that it is a Malayan water monitor (Varanus salvator), a species that is widespread and common along coastlines and waterways throughout much of Singapore. I acknowledge that not everyone is well-versed in identifying animals, but it is really quite incredibly appalling that someone should mistake it for a baby crocodile.

Malayan water monitor, Pasir Ris;
(Photo by miichan)

A young estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) was seen in Pasir Ris in 2008, but was eventually captured. And while there is always a possibility that the mangroves in the area may be colonised by crocodiles dispersing from elsewhere, it is easy to tell crocodiles apart from monitor lizards.

Croc @ Pasir Ris
This appears to be a legitimate photo of a crocodile, apparently taken at Pasir Ris in August 2008;
(Photo by wingsaf)

Crocodiles are most often encountered in Sungei Buloh, where monitor lizards are also very commonly seen. The issue of misidentifying monitor lizards has been covered here, as well as in this post I wrote for the Celebrating Singapore's Biodiversity blog. My Itchy Fingers also has an excellent write-up about the various reptiles that the Malayan water monitor is often confused with.

Estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
Estuarine crocodile, Sungei Buloh;
(Photo by Brandon)