Johannesburg Zoo crocodiles come out of their winter hot house as warm weather arrives on the Highveld

Johannesburg Zoo’s group of over twenty Nile crocodiles were released from their winter enclosure called the “hot house” into their outdoor enclosure in early September. As the Nile crocodile does not naturally occur on the Highveld they are not adapted to our cold winters, therefore the crocodiles

In early September, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians, Ian Visser felt the temperature had warmed up sufficiently to release the crocodiles back outside. This is easier said than done. Before the crocodiles are released, a team of 6 keepers and vet staff perform routine veterinary exams where they weigh, measure and take blood from 22 individuals. The reason why this is done is to make sure all the zoo’s crocodiles are healthy and not suffering from any underlying condition.

When dealing with dangerous animals such crocodiles, a lot of planning and preparation occurs. Every member of the capture team must know their role and when they are needed. “There can be no confusion or miscommunication when handling crocs” remarked curator and team leader, Ian Visser. The whole operation took 4 hours to complete which is approximately 10 minutes per crocodile. “I was happy with the whole operation. It is important to be as quick and efficient as possible as the longer each croc is handled, the more stressed it becomes. The team worked very well and we had no problems”.


Photo by Miona Janeke

In total the team carried 2 tons of crocodiles, the largest being 74.6kg and 2.5 metres long while the smallest was 30.8kg and 1.9 metres long. The blood test taken from each crocodile will be used to establish a baseline parameter which will measure the health of the crocodiles. “If we find a crocodile is showing signs it is not well, we can compare its blood levels to those taken and it will assist us in treating the animal”, commented Dr. Katja Koeppel, the zoo’s senior vet.

In the meantime, all the zoo’s crocodiles are back basking in the warm spring sun and have a healthy appetite. Visit the Joburg Zoo on Sundays at approximately 1pm to watch the crocodiles being fed and an informative keeper talk. For more information about the Johannesburg Zoo go to

Prepared Candice Segal and issued by Letta Madlala Brand and Communications Manager on behalf of the Johannesburg Zoo. END.

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