Crocs – Ancient Predators in a Modern World

  • Crocs - Ancient Predators in a Modern World
This exhibition examines the long and complex history of crocodilians, their influence in human cultures, and their precarious future in a world dominated by people. Cutting-edge science, live animals, and interactive components emphasize the importance of preserving these elegant predators.

Crocs have flourished for more than 200 million years, and the group once included a rich diversity of specialized forms from galloping land predators and jumping insect eaters to pug-nosed herbivores and dolphin-like pelagic hunters. All modern crocodilians are built for life at the water’s edge. These stealthy aquatic predators have rugged bodies, keen senses, and incredible strength. But crocs are more than just brutes, they lead intricate social lives. They communicate with a range of pips, grunts, hisses, bellows, and subtle changes in body posture. They battle over territories, engage in lengthy courtship rituals, and provide their young with tender parental care. Living crocodilians range from diminutive forest dwellers to behemoths that eat wildebeests, buffaloes, and occasionally people. In a human-dominated world, the future of crocodilians depends upon our willingness to share space with large predators.

CROCS – Ancient Predators in a Modern World immerses visitors in the realm of crocodilians with large, colorful graphics, engaging interactives, artifacts, and living specimens.

CROCS – Ancient Predators in a Modern World

This traveling exhibition explores the complex lives of crocodilians. The exhibition includes a digital curator to introduce the main interpretive themes; 4 living dioramas complete with live crocodilians, naturalistic decor, filtration, and life support systems; 5 modeled dioramas with life-sized museum quality replicas in habitats scenes; 15 interactive components; a mini theater; fossil artifacts; and more than 40 informational panels. An animal professional from the Peeling Productions staff remains with the exhibition throughout the venue to care for the animal collection and maintain safety protocols.

Scientific Advisor: Dr. Kent Vliet, Professor of Biology, University of Florida

Booking Period: 12-week minimum

Space Required:  3,500 to 6,000 square feet; modular design permits tremendous layout flexibility.

Gallery Conditions: Requires a secure indoor space at room temperature.

Shipping: Host institution is responsible for inbound shipping of exhibition components (two 53′ trailers) and round-trip live croc/plant transport (per mile fee).

Please contact us for exhibit pricing and availability.

Exhibited species are subject to change, but typically include the following:

Living Dioramas

Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) Siamese crocodiles are among the most endangered crocodilian species, and may be functionally extinct throughout much of their range. Crocodile farms in Asia have crossed this species with the much larger saltwater crocodile, and breed thousands of hybrids each year for the leather industry. Conservation groups are scrambling to save the last wild populations of Siamese crocs, which are threatened by habitat loss and construction of hydro-electric dams.

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) This widespread and successful species inhabits swamps, marshes, rivers, and lakes in the Southeastern United States. American alligators are serious about motherhood. The female builds a nest by scraping together leaves and other debris, buries her eggs inside the mound, and stands guard for two months until the babies hatch. Hatchling alligators may stay in their mother’s protection for months or even years! This diorama features a re-created alligator nest at water’s edge. The nest is guarded by a life-like model mother. A crèche of live hatchlings swim and interact in the adjacent pool.

African dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis) These shy forest dwellers spend much of the day hidden in earthen burrows, and emerge after dark to search for food. Unlike most crocodilians, dwarf crocs do much of their hunting on land—prowling the forest at night, far from water. The status of this species in the wild is largely unknown.

African slender-snouted crocodile (Mecistops cataphractus) This medium-sized crocodile inhabits rivers that run through the tropical rainforests of Central Africa. These nimble predators hunt fish and are famous for climbing into low shrubs in search of birds. They often perch on elevated logs above water, dropping into the pool at the first sign of danger.

Model Dioramas

Australian freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnstoni) “Freshies” are the smaller cousins of Australia’s giant saltwater crocodiles. They live in rivers, creeks, and billabongs in Northern Australia, and make their living as ambush predators. They lie in wait for fish and other small animals, snatching them with a sideways jerk of the head. Some populations of freshwater crocodiles have declined because of invasive cane toads—the crocs eat the toads, which are toxic.

Cuvier’s dwarf caiman (Paleosuchus palpebrosus) Despite being the smallest living crocodilians, dwarf caimans are built for rough living. Dense, bony armor on the back and belly protect against turbulent rivers, rough terrain, and predators. Armored skin has also protected the caimans from extensive hunting, because the bony hides are not considered valuable as leather.

Indian gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) Gharials are extreme river specialists. The long, narrow snout, lined with interlocking teeth, is perfect for slicing through water to catch fish—nearly their entire diet. Gharials are elegant swimmers and spend most of their time in water. Adults leave the water only to bask and lay eggs, unable to fully lift their bodies off of the ground. Once widespread in Southeast Asia, this species in now critically endangered— fewer than 200 breeding adults remain in the wild.

Estuarine (saltwater) crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) “Salties” are the largest living crocodilians and the heaviest living reptiles. Adult males occasionally reach lengths of more than 18 feet and weigh in at over 2,000 lbs! These crocs eat a wide variety of small animals, but are capable of killing prey as large as water buffaloes—in some parts of their range saltwater crocodiles occasionally eat people. This diorama is a life-sized model of Gomek, the largest crocodile ever exhibited in North America. Caught by a crocodile hunter in Papua New Guinea in the 1960s, Gomek was later brought to the US as an animal ambassador on exhibit at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. Gomek’s life spanned a period of change in the way Australian society viewed large, dangerous predators.

Bring a Fossil to Life – This interactive experience puts visitors in the role of paleo-artist, creating a plausible 3D animation of a long-extinct croc.

Giants – A touchable tooth and armored scute from the fossil croc, Sarcosuchus,  makes clear the scale of these ancient giants!

Build a Crocodylomorph – By working a virtual field notebook, visitors can assemble a variety of ancient crocs and glimpse the staggering diversity the group once sported.

Ask the Fossil Experts – Ever wonder if ancient crocs ate dinosaurs or why some extinct crocs grew so big? Paleontologists, including Dr. Mark Norell from the American Museum of Natural History, have the answers.

The Social Gator – Far from mindless brutes, crocodilians lead complex social lives. Explore how they communicate with sight, sound, smell, and touch in this interactive exhibit.

Crunch Capacity – Crocodilians have the strongest bites of any animal measured. Visitors can test their strength against a croc on a modified force gauge while a video demonstrates how researchers measure the bites of real crocs.

Croc Talk – Learn to speak “croc” in under 5 minutes with this interactive station. Activate real croc calls and learn what scientists think they mean.

Ask the Croc Experts – Get answers to common questions about modern crocodilians from some of the world’s foremost experts.

Where in the World? – Crocodilians live in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. Explore an animated world map to learn which species live where.

Alligator or crocodile? – Can you tell them apart by looking at their heads? Lift the model skulls to check your answers.

Make the Water Dance – When alligators bellow, a splashy fountain of water jumps around them. Learn the physics of why this happens and try your hand at re-creating the water dance.

How Big Was It? – Big croc stories are like big fish stories–almost always exaggerated. Learn how scientists calculate the size of crocs, and measure a giant skull to test your skill!

Gomek – The largest crocodile ever exhibited in the Western Hemisphere was caught on the Fly River of New Guinea in the 1960s. Gomek was believed to be a man-eater by local villagers, but later became a symbol for crocodile conservation in Australia and the United States. A life-sized model of this enormous animal allows visitors to get closer than otherwise possible to a giant “salty.”

To Catch a Crocodile – An interview with George Craig, the croc hunter who captured Gomek, recounts the danger and technical challenges of capturing giant crocs unharmed.

Conservation Theater – Short videos in this mini-theater explore two situations where conservationists are working to save crocodilians in the wild: Australia’s successful restoration of saltwater crocodiles by making them economically valuable, and India’s struggle to make space for the last free-living population of gharials.

Croc Bytes – Test your crocodilian IQ with fun facts and croc trivia.

Ask the Croc Experts – What’s the most dangerous sized croc? How do most croc attacks happen? Does tourism really help crocs? Get the answers to these and other questions about how human societies can make room for crocodilians from a variety of conservation biologists.