Researchers have confirmed the presence of Nile crocodiles in Florida.
Florida can now add the notorious Nile crocodile to the list of exotic and dangerous non-native species that have been found in the sunshine state.
According to a study by researchers from the University of Florida, DNA testing has shown that three juvenile crocodiles captured in the wild between 2000 and 2014 are indeed of the deadly African lineage of the Nile crocodile.
Furthermore, the study found the crocodiles were able to survive in the Florida climate and indicated there is a good chance there are more yet to be found.
“The odds that the few of us who study Florida reptiles have found all of the Nile crocs out there is probably unlikely,” said Kenneth Krysko, a co-author of the study and the manager of herpetology (the study of amphibians) collections at the Florida Museum of Natural History, in a press release.
“We know that they can survive in the Florida wilderness for numerous years,” Krysko continued. “We know that they grow quickly here and we know their behavior in their native range, and there is no reason to suggest that would change here in Florida.”
Speaking of the Nile crocodile’s behavior in its native range of sub-saharan Africa — the ancient amphibian, which can grow up to 18 feet long and preys on cattle, zebras and small hippos, has also earned the fear-inducing moniker of “man-eater” for its appetite for people as well.
Crocodylus niloticus was responsible for at least 493 attacks on people between 2010 and 2014 in sub-saharan Africa, 354 (71.8 percent) of which were fatal, according to the study.
But don’t cancel your Florida travel plans yet!
The study presented no evidence to suggest the three specimens that were found in Florida had ever attacked a human or that the invasive species had established a population.
So the question remains, how did these crocs get to Florida?
The researchers note that over the last decade, large groups of Nile crocodiles have been imported from South Africa and Madagascar for display at zoos like Disney’s Animal Kingdom and to supply Florida’s flourishing pet trade, with the latter being the most likely introduction pathway, according to the study.
According to a statement from the university, Florida’s subtropical climate is one reason the state has the world’s largest number of invasive species.
“My hope as a biologist is that the introduction of Nile crocodiles in Florida opens everyone’s eyes to the problem of invasive species that we have here in our state,” Krysko said.
With burmese pythons slithering about, another invasive species which has also on rare-occasion eaten humans, chances are Floridians are well aware of their invasive species problem.