Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy accident

Captivated by the accompanying photo (1st image), I read this article last night and learned about an interesting turnaround here in Florida. The American crocodile has made it off the endangered species list! Their numbers have grown from less than 300 in the state 40 years ago to more than 1,500 in South Florida* today, moving it to "threatened" status. Their increase in numbers is chalked up to a habitat inadvertently provided by the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant in Biscayne Bay. The plant has 168 miles (270 km) of cooling canals in a closed-loop network (2nd image) - the largest in the world - that essentially serves as a giant radiator. "The way the cooling canal system was designed actually turned out to be pretty good for crocodile nesting. It wasn't designed for crocodiles, but they've done a very good job of maintaining that area." says John Wrublik, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The canals and berms at the power plant site have in part compensated for the loss of habitat elsewhere and the plant is remote, making it difficult for humans to disturb the animals or their habitat. The 1st crocodile nest was discovered in 1977; now as many as 400 crocodiles up to 15' (4.5m) long and as heavy as 2,000lbs (907kg) call the power plant home. Biologists on staff monitor population growth and survival rates under guidelines set by state and federal regulators. They survey the reptiles at night, weighing them, marking them with white (to keep them from being captured twice on the same night), and slipping them back into the water. If it's a 1st-time capture, the crocodile is tagged with a microchip to identify it and track its fate, which may be a meal for a fellow croc, one of which was found with 8 microchips in its belly! As deadly as they may be to each other, the crocodiles have not been harmed by their proximity to the nuclear plant. I'm happy to relay that the scientists have detected no sign of radiation in the animals.

*Crocodiles are so sensitive to cold that their only U.S. habitat is in South Florida.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You may add your comments here.