x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

King and Queen Croc are Dubai’s new celebrity couple

After being flown thousands of miles from Queensland, Australia, in a specially chartered 747 jumbo jet the pair are getting used to their new surroundings at Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo at Dubai Mall.

King Croc, at 5.1 metres from head to tail, one the biggest crocodiles in the world, gets used to his new home at the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo in Dubai Mall with his Queen Croc. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
King Croc, at 5.1 metres from head to tail, one the biggest crocodiles in the world, gets used to his new home at the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo in Dubai Mall with his Queen Croc. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

DUBAI // Meet King and Queen Croc, the latest celebrity couple to make the emirate their home.

After being flown thousands of miles from Queensland, Australia, in a specially chartered 747 jumbo jet, the pair are getting used to their new surroundings at Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo in Dubai Mall.

Weighing in at 750 kilograms and 5.1 metres from head to tail, King Croc is one the biggest crocodiles on the planet and the apex predator, along with his “wife”, are now the star attractions at the venue.

“They have settled in really well to their new surroundings and are feeding normally,” said Paul Hamilton, head curator at the aquarium. “We hope that they will encourage visitors to the aquarium to learn more about their species and the conservation efforts that are being undertaken to protect them.”

With 60 razor-sharp teeth and a bite force estimated at 3,700 pounds per square inch – the most powerful of any animal on Earth – he is at the top of the food chain.

But he also has brains to go with the brawn, as the team sent to catch him found out.

“He is a very clever crocodile. He knew something was up as soon as he spotted our team a few days prior to our plan to catch him,” said Mr Hamilton.

The team, including experts in Australia, had to drain his pool at a botanical garden down to two feet of water and he still proved to be difficult to catch.

He had been labelled as a “problem” crocodile due to his aggressive nature, particularly against humans and other male crocodiles.

“He really made it difficult for us but we managed to get him in the end,” Mr Hamilton said.

Once caught, King Croc was sedated and placed into a specially made container before his three-day journey to Dubai.

At three metres long and weighing in at 183 kilograms, his “wife” is an equally powerful predator.

“It was quite important for us that Queen Croc came with him,” said Mr Hamilton.

“He’s been with her for 20 years and he is one of the elite big crocodiles on the planet.

“Certainly, he is a powerful creature and it’s quiet amazing to see how he is with her.

“He never hurts her and they sleep chin on chin.

“It’s pretty obvious that they are in a relationship and we made sure that they came together.

“But Queen Croc sometimes gives us the impression that she’s in charge.

“If he gets out of line she’ll snap at him but I’ve seen him snap at her and you can probably relate that to other circumstances.

“She’s always with him but, in some respects, he does lead the way, so if he moves, she’ll follow him around.”

Aquarium staff did not expect him to feed for at least a month but the 40-year-old reptile has adapted quickly to his custom-built enclosure since arriving two weeks ago.

His new home is kept at the same temperature and humidity as his natural habitat. And he enjoys the sound of human voices, so staff pipe talk radio stations through to him.

Visitors can view the animals from a glass viewing deck above the enclosure.

The pair’s diet largely consists of chicken and other nutrients, which means King Croc could, in the coming decades, grow to seven metres in length by the time he reaches his 100th birthday.

“The interesting thing is that if the crocodile is already over five metres and you grow a metre, you put on 500 kilograms and he becomes a much larger animal in terms of girth,” Mr Hamilton said.

Pablo Kang, the Australian ambassador to the UAE, hoped the arrival of King and Queen Croc would encourage people to visit Australia to see the animals in their natural habitat.

“It’s very difficult to get permission from the Australian government to allow these creatures to leave the country and they only do so if they know that their new home will be suitable,” he said.

King and Queen Croc can be seen at level 2 of Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo in Dubai Mall.

nhanif@thenational.ae