Croc has big shoes to fill

January 12, 2018

Role model: A file pic of the late Getcha, a saltwater croc that had been at the park for eight years.

After four months of hard work and planning, Kyabram Fauna Park has finally welcomed its Crocodylus johnstoni.

And his name is Wilbur.

Wilbur is, in English, an Australian freshwater crocodile and he is already settling into his new reptile enclosure.

Right now Wilbur is a mere 1m and park manager Ron Pope said he was expected to peak out at a conservative 1.5m.

A far cry from the late lamented Getcha, a saltwater croc that had been at the park for eight years, measured 1.9m and weighed in at 120kg.

‘‘He’s young and was the runt of his hatch, but in this environment we’re expecting that he’ll grow pretty quickly,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re not sure how old he is at the moment, we’re guessing he’s about 3 years old, but we’ll know for certain when we get more information from the breeder.’’

While Wilbur was shy in front of the cameras, park staff have seen him getting up and exploring his new surroundings during the week.

‘‘At the moment his favourite spot to sit is up on the log so he can get a good look at everyone going past,’’ Mr Pope said.

‘‘He’s getting used to it on a day-by-day basis, when we first put him in here he was hiding under rocks and staying at the rear of the enclosure.

‘‘He feels safer now so he’s begun adventuring more towards the front and he’s letting us get closer to him which shows he’s not too stressed.’’

Mr Pope said the park had the enclosure shut down while staff cleaned, sterilised and refurbished it as well as adding in new rock work.

‘‘There’s been a fair amount of time and effort which has gone into the enclosure, you would barely recognise it now,’’ he said.

Wilbur’s residency is also a sign of bigger things to come for the reptile centre.

‘‘Depending on how Wilbur progresses, we may be introducing other species into his enclosure,’’ Mr Pope said.

‘‘Freshwater crocs are a lot less territorial than the saltwater ones.

‘‘Hopefully we’ll be able to add in animals such as turtles or water dragons; we might even be able to put in some yabbies to keep him company.

‘‘We’re also waiting to see if it’s possible to add in another crocodile when Wilbur is comfortable in his enclosure.’’

The second stage of works on the reptile centre is expected to begin later this month with the introduction of a new saltwater exhibit.

It will include an 8mx5m saltwater pond with an indoor embankment for a new saltwater croc to sit and a 6m viewing window for visitors to watch through.

Solar power will also be installed to lower running costs along with new monitoring systems for the enclosures.

‘‘We’re trialling the systems we have at the moment and if they prove to be reliable we’ll extend them into the new development,’’ Mr Pope said.

‘‘As a whole, the centre is going to be running more efficiently and it’ll be a lot easier to maintain.’’

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