Oh, Those Teeth: Gharials Debut at LA Zoo

The Madras-born, critically endangered reptiles have made a new home at the animal park.

While the gharial, which is aptly described as "a very unique species of crocodile," possesses many notable attributes, it seems wise to first touch upon those amazing, how-can-they?, how-are-they?, how-many? teeth inside the gharial's sizable maw.

The reptile boasts an "...exaggerated, long snout filled with around 110 sharp, needle-like teeth made for cutting through water and catching fish." Not only is that a prodigious number of chompers, but those 110 teeth truly seem like teeth from another time, long ago.

Not everyone can rock the prehistoric, wayback, amazo teeth, but gharials do.

But the gharial's most impressive feature is only a sliver of its story: The crocodiles are critically endangered.

So after a quartet of hatchlings was born at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust & Centre for Herpetology in Madras, "which runs the world's most successful breeding program for gharials," they made their way, with a layover at the Bronx Zoo, to the Los Angeles Zoo, as part of a program that creates "an insurance policy for this species that nearly went extinct in the 1970s due to human encroachment and disruption of populations through fishing and hunting activities."

The LA Zoo is one of nine North American zoos participating in the Species Survival Program for the critically endangered beasties.

The gharials, a male and three females, have now moved into a "state-of-the-art" habitat, an original zoo habitat dating back 50 years, that was fully redesigned and updated specifically to the crocodiles' needs.

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Even the sand in the habitat was chosen to recall "...the raised beaches of the Chambal and Ganges Rivers where gharials like to nest," says a zoo representative.

Sporting over 100 "needle-like" teeth isn't the only attribute of this fish-eating croc; it can top 20 feet in length. As for roomies the critter co-exists with in a peaceable manner? Both birds and turtles do well living among gharials, who focus, for their feeding habits, on the piscine world.

A cute sidenote, among all those teeth: River terrapins, reveals the zoo, may even mistake the vaguely log-shaped gharials for logs, and climb up on the crocodiles for a little sunbathing.

And gharials dearly love the sun, so be sure to stop by the new habitat on a sunshiny day to wave at these critically endangered beauties in their new, Species Survival Program home.

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