The Mugger Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) is a medium-sized species of crocodile with a broad snout. It is also known as the Marsh Crocodile. This species is native to freshwater habitats throughout southern Iran to the Indian subcontinent, including marshes, lakes, rivers, and man-made ponds. They are powerful swimmers and are capable of walking on land to find new water sources during hot weather. They can grow up to 16 feet 5 inches in length but usually do not reach this size.
Freshwater crocodiles are much smaller than saltwater crocodiles, with males growing up to only around 5 meters (16.5 feet) in length.The snout of a freshwater crocodile is broader and U-shaped while the snout of a saltwater crocodile is more V-shaped and narrow. Also,saltwater crocodiles have larger, more prominent teeth than freshwater crocodiles. Freshwater crocodiles are generally lighter in color, ranging from light tan to brown, while saltwater crocodiles are usually dark brown or gray in color.The scales on the back of a saltwater crocodile are larger and more pronounced than those of a freshwater crocodile.
The mugger crocodile is a formidable swimmer known for its ability to navigate through water using its powerful tail and hind legs. It has a unique way of walking, known as belly-walking, where it moves by keeping its belly in contact with the ground, both in water and on land. During the hot and dry season, it sets out on land at night in search of suitable habitats, spending the majority of its day submerged in water. In the cold season, it can be found basking on riverbanks, where it becomes more tolerant of other individuals.
As a thermoconformer, the mugger crocodile has an optimal body temperature of 30 to 35 °C, and it is susceptible to death from freezing or hyperthermia when exposed to temperatures below 5 °C or above 38 °C respectively. To avoid these harsh conditions, the crocodile retreats to its burrow, which it digs for protection from extreme temperatures and other climatic elements. These burrows can range from 0.6 to 6 m deep and have a constant temperature of 19.2 to 29 °C, depending on the region.
Female muggers reach sexual maturity at a length of 1.8-2.2 m and an age of 6.5 years, while males reach maturity at a length of 2.6 m. The reproduction cycle starts in November with courtship and mating, marking the onset of the cold season. Both young and adult mugger crocodiles will dig burrows as a means of retreat when temperatures become too extreme, either too hot or too cold. During the dry season, females will dig nests in the sand and lay up to 46 eggs. The temperature during incubation determines the sex of the hatchlings, and both parents will protect the young for up to a year.
The mugger crocodile’s diet consists of fish, snakes, turtles, birds, mammals, such as monkeys, squirrels, rodents, and dogs, and it will also scavenge dead animals. During dry seasons, the mugger travels long distances over land in search of food and water. As they grow, they switch from eating insects to small to medium-sized ungulates. Additionally, it has been documented that the mugger crocodile uses tools, such as branches and sticks, to lure birds during the nesting season.
Population and distribution in India
Magars are found in freshwater. They are found in major river systems in India including Ganges, Yamuna, Mahanadi, Kaveri etc. They have also been seen in many ponds and fresh water lakes in central and western India. The estimated population of Magar is more than 10000 in various river systems.
They have also been bred in captivity quite easily and thus the numbers have been good all these years.
Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh has good number of Magars. They can be seen sunbathing many times.
Ranthambore national parks has a good number of magars in the lakes and swamps where they can be spotted easily.
Corbett National park is another place where one can easily spot the magar.
More than anything, they can been found very easily along major rivers where one can see the sign of “ crocodile”