A critically endangered Cuban crocodile was found dead in its enclosure at the National Zoo on Dec. 17 after apparently chewing into electric equipment.
The crocodile, a 10-year-old male who was hatched at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in 2012 as part of a breeding program, was “attracted to a replacement electrical outlet and attacked the electric infrastructure in the habitat.”
“The new outlet was approximately 4.5 feet off the ground, higher than the original outlet,” the National Zoo explained. “Known for their aggressive behavior, the crocodile pulled the electric equipment off the wall and bit various pieces.”
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The crocodile had been living in the enclosure for several years without incident, and daily inspections didn’t reveal anything concerning.
The National Zoo is investigating the incident and a pathology report will determine the cause of death.
Cuban crocodiles are a critically endangered species with only about 3,000 purebred crocodiles in the wild. Their natural habitat is Cuba’s Zapata Swamp and Lanier Swamp on Isla de Juventud, where American crocodiles have been interbreeding with them in recent decades.