Yala has not only the highest density of leopards in the world; it also has the highest density of mugger crocodiles worldwide. About 500 are counted in Yala – a reason for us to tell you a little bit about them.
The mugger crocodile is a freshwater crocodile which likes slow-moving waters. They can be found in marshes, lakes and rivers. Here in Sri Lanka they also live in man-made irrigation systems like water tanks and reservoirs.
Females are about 2.5m in length and males about 3m in average. The weight can vary between 40 and 200kg. Most of the mugger crocodiles are very social and you can find them in large groups either hunting or relaxing together.
They prefer to eat fish but also like to eat other reptiles, insects and small mammals. They barely hunt on land but every animal has to drink sometimes and that is the moment where the crocodile has its chance to get them. It is also noted that some large adults prey on large mammals such as deer or buffalos but that is very rare.
The reason why they are called “mugger” is their way of hunting. When a mugger crocodile wants to hunt a mammal, it waits until the mammal gets down to the water surface, grabs it at the snout or foreleg and pulls it underwater where it drowns. When the prey is dead the crocodile starts eating. Usually they eat a lot at once and stay without food for a longer period after that.
Most of the time you will see the mugger crocodiles with their mouth open and relaxing on land. The reason for this is quickly explained. Crocodiles do not have sweat glands, that means that they can not reduce the heat through the skin. Because of the heat in Sri Lanka and the huge amount of food they eat at a time the body heats up and they need to cool down again. They do this through their mouth as the heat flushes out and the body cools down. They also sleep with an open mouth and sometimes you can hear them panting like a dog.