A mugger crocodile in Sayajibaug Zoo, Vadodara, who lost his upper jaw in a territorial fight, has survived for over a decade due to the zookeepers who hand-feed him.
The lone brown mugger stays in an isolated pond, where a dedicated caretaker comes to carefully feed him fish with his hands, according to The Indian Express.
While this is no means to feed a crocodile, this was the only way the zookeepers could ensure that he survived.
"Since he lost his jaw, the aim was to ensure that he survives. The incident was unfortunate and we witnessed the pain he was in. Crocodiles are dangerous, but that is how nature made animals. We were guarded at first, but his response has been mellow," 60-year-old Kalu Mali, a keeper of the zoo, told the media.
"He has never tried to attack us. We carry a stick and sit on the periphery of the pond to feed him. The stick helps in pushing pieces down that he cannot swallow independently. We, of course, do not attempt to insert our hand in his mouth, although a bite cannot possibly take place," he added.
While the mugger cannot injure anyone by biting, it is not harmless.
"He does have the potential to injure a person with a whip by his tail — another way of crocodiles turning offensive. However, we have not seen any aggressive behaviour from him so far," Present curator Pratyush Patankar said.
"Recently, we needed to repair the boundary wall of his isolated enclosure and he remained seated peacefully with his keepers by his side, even as the petrified workers hurried with their task," he added.
The mugger, who is nearly 25 years old, lost his jaw in 2010 in a territorial fight in the main crocodile enclosure he had shared with three other crocodiles.
"The injury was a result of a territorial fight with the second male crocodile (there were four in the pond then), who was actually younger to this one. The attacker had managed to grab his jaw in a bite," Dr CB Patel, former zoo curator, who performed the surgery on the mugger, said.
"He also lost a big portion of his muscles on either side of his snout, but we were able to pull the muscles together and stitch it back. The jaw, however, was broken from the joint and could not be healed. It was amputated," he added.
Since then, with the authorities keeping a close watch, the mugger underwent a slow recovery.
"It is an achievement that the crocodile has survived for over a decade after losing his upper jaw. It is because of the dedication of the keepers," Patankar said, adding that as reptiles eat by swallowing and not biting, the process of swallowing the fish is not an issue for the mugger.
"Over the years, this mugger also got conditioned to being hand fed. He associates the sound of the bucket, as well as that of his keepers, with his meals," he added.Also Read: 100-Yr-Old Tortoise Retires After Saving His Species; Fathered 800 Offsprings