Mugger Crocodile

Mugger Crocodile

Mugger Crocodile information

The Mugger crocodile, Crocodylus palustris, is a medium to large crocodile living throughout the Indian subcontinent and the surrounding countries, from Iran in the west to Sri Lanka in the east. It is the only crocodile found in Iran and Pakistan and the by far most common and widespread of the three species of crocodile present in India.   

Mugger Crocodile taxonomy                                                                    

Kingdom:      Animalia
Phylum:         Chordata
Class:            Reptilia
Order:           Crocodilia
Family:          Crocodylidae
Subfamily:    Crocodylinae
Genus:           Crocodylus
Species:         Crocodylus palustris

Mugger Crocodile conservation status

Crocodylus palustris is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The estimated world wide population of Crocodylus palustris is comprised of 5,000-10,000 specimens.

The main threats are habitat destruction, egg collection, and illegal hunting for the hide and alternative medicine markets. Mugger crocodiles also become ensnared and drown in fish nets as they try to feed on entangled fish. 

Mugger Crocodile range

The Mugger Crocodile lives in Iran, Pakistan, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and possibly areas of Indo-China.

Mugger Crocodile habitat

The Mugger crocodile is a freshwater species that prefers slow-moving waters. It is commonly found in shallow parts of marshes, lakes and rivers. In India and Sri Lanka, the crocodiles are also taking advantage of man-made bodies of water such as irrigation canals and reservoirs.

Despite being a freshwater species the Mugger crocodile can inhabit saltwater lagoons, but only occasional reports of such specimens exist.

Compared to most other members of its genus, the Mugger crocodile is exceptionally well adapted to life on land. It is highly mobile on land and can chase prey for short distances as well as migrate long distances over land in search of new habitats.

India is home to Crocodylus palustris, Crocodylus porosus and Gavialis gangeticus, but most of the time Crocodylus palustris will chose other types of habitat than the other two.

Mugger Crocodile size and appearance

On average, male Mugger crocodiles attain a length of 10 feet (3 metres) while the average female is 7.4 feet (2.45 metres). Occasional specimens can however become considerably larger and some old males are 13-18 feet (4-4.5 meters) long and weigh over 1000 lbs (450 kg).

Juvenile Mugger crocodiles are usually light tan to pale olive with black cross-banding and spotting on body and tail. As the crocodile grows older it loses most of its banding and the body darkens and become grey, brown and/or blackish olive.

The Mugger crocodile has the broadest snout of all the members of its genus, an anatomical feature that gives its head an alligator like appearance. The head is rough without any ridges and the jaw contains 19 upper teeth on each side. The limbs are protected by keeled scales and a serrated fringe can be seen on the outer edge of each leg. The fingers of the Mugger crocodile are webbed at the base only while the outer toes feature extensive webbing. 

Mugger Crocodile mobility

The Mugger crocodile can migrate long distances over land in search of a new home and can chase prey on land for short distances. It is better adapted to life on land than most other species of crocodile.  

Mugger Crocodile feeding and diet

Adult Mugger crocodiles are capable of overcoming most animals that venture too close to the water and really large adults are known to occasionally prey on 200+kg sambar deer and 450+ kg domestic water buffalo and compete directly with the tiger over kills. (Tigers also prey on Mugger crocodiles; it all depends on the size and strength of the individual animals involved.)  Fish, reptiles and small mammals do however make up a much larger part of the standard Mugger crocodile diet than deer and buffalo. This species is for instance known to feed on snakes, amphibians, large fish, birds and monkeys.

Juvenile Mugger crocodiles chiefly feed on insects, crustaceans and small fish.

Reports of attacks on humans do exist and there has been at least one confirmed fatality in Iran where a child was killed by a Mugger crocodile. It is however considered much less dangerous than the Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus).

Mugger Crocodile breeding

The female Mugger crocodile reaches sexual maturity when she’s about 1.7-2.0 m (5.6-6.5 ft) long, something which usually happens when she’s roughly 6 years of age. The male is not ready to breed until he’s at least 2.6 m (8.5 ft) long which means that most breeding males are 10 years or older.

The Mugger crocodile will excavate a hole nest during the dry season (December to February). Most females choose sloping banks, but some opt for other locations. She will then deposit anywhere from 10 to 48 eggs (25-30 eggs on average) and guard the nest until they hatch after 55-75 days.

The sex of the offspring is determined by the temperature in the nest, with a temperature of 32.5 °C (90.5 °F) leading to an all-male batch. Below and above this more females will be produced, and a temperature of 28-31°C (82-88 °F) leads to females only.  

The emerging juveniles are roughly 30 cm long and their mother will aid them by opening up the nest and carrying them to the water. In captivity, male crocodiles have also been seen carrying out these tasks but males engaging in this type of parental behaviour is not reported from the wild.

Mugger Crocodile facts

Mugger Crocodile facts # 1
The name Mugger crocodile doesn’t allude to this species being particularly interested in mugging anyone; it is instead a corruption of the Hindi/Urdu word magar which means "water monster". Magar in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word for crocodile; makara.

Within its native range the Mugger crocodile is known under several other names, including Makar, Bhakuna, Muggar crocodile, Marsh crocodile, Indian swamp crocodile, Indus crocodile, Broad-snouted crocodile, Äle Kimbula, Häle Kimbula, Gohi, Gomua, Dhakor Muhma, Iranian crocodile, and Persian crocodile. In the Persian language, its name is گاندو (Gandu).

Mugger Crocodile facts # 2
The scientific name Crocodylus palustris means “crocodile of the marsh” and it is an aptly chosen name since this species is exceedingly fond of slow moving waters of the kind found in marshy environments.

Mugger Crocodile facts # 3
The Mugger crocodile excavate burrows to seek shelter in.

Mugger Crocodile facts # 4
The only animals known to prey on adult Mugger crocodiles are other crocodiles and the tiger.

Mugger Crocodile facts # 5
India commenced restocking programs for this species as early as 1975.


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