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The Orinoco Crocodile

The Orinoco crocodile, the largest predator in South America, has been designated by the Swiss-based World Conservation Union as one of the 12 most endangered species in the world. In the 1930s, these crocodiles were hunted so extensively for their valuable skins that in the late 1980s, less than 700 crocodiles remained in the Orinoco river system of Venezuela and Colombia.

To preserve this species (crocodylus intermedius), several Venezuelans have decided to act quickly. They have taken the initiative to set up breeding centers and to date, there are four privately-run breeding centers in the country. As a result, many young crocodiles have been hatched and in the early 1990s. as many as 1000 young crocodiles have been released in the Hams or savanna region of Venezuela. The Environment Ministry of Venezuela is happy to report. that. these crocodiles have reached maturity and are now beginning to reproduce naturally.

Puerto Miranda is one private breeding centre in Venezuela. Set in a forest-like setting with numerous trees and lakes, it appears to be the perfect place for breeding crocodiles. Many of these lakes are fenced off and in each of these lakes, about two males and several females are left to enjoy the company of one another. It has been found that older, more fertile females can regularly produce several batches of eggs each year. In one sitting, a 20-year-old, for example, can lay as many as 40 eggs in the muddy banks of the lake. These eggs are then carefully removed and placed in specially prepared boxes that are kept beneath high wattage bulbs. 'The warmth of the lights is essential in the incubation process.

Baby crocodiles bred in captivity often flourish and grow well because they are kept safe from their natural predators which include the snake, the fox, the hawk, and man. After a year and having grown about a meter long, the young crocodiles are released into the wild.

Adult males can grow longer than a luxury car (five meters) and weigh heavier than a healthy cow (380 kg). Despite their size, they can run very fast over short distances and moving them about. in the centre can prove to be very hazardous. The crocodile is an aggressive creature and it has been observed that the bigger they grow, the fiercer they become. In captivity these reptiles are fed large chunks of ' horse and donkey meat. Feeding time is a serious affair as crocodiles snap and hiss at one another for meat to appease their savage appetites.

The local experts do not know how successful these schemes are because there is no follow-up research on the survival and reproduction rates of the released crocodiles. Scarcity of financial resources and the difficult terrain of Venezuela have been cited as reasons fir the lack of follow-up. A concerned local observer notes that although large tracts of land crossing huge cattle ranches, where humans are scarce and wildlife is flourishing, have been declared as protected reserves, the future is still uncertain for the crocodile. The observer hopes that natural instincts will take over to enable the crocodile to survive and reproduce in the wild.


Why are the numbers of the Orinoco crocodile dwindling ?

    (A) Their skins are valuable.
    (B) They cannot survive in the wild.
    (C) They need Man's help to survive.

They are widely hunted by Man.


What evidence shows that the breeding centers are successful ?

    (A) They are set in natural forest-like settings.
    (B) They are privately-run.

Many captivity-bred baby crocodiles are flourishing.

    (D) Baby crocodiles are kept safe from their natural enemies.

Why are the crocodiles released into the wild when they are a year old ?

    (A) The center does not have enough funds to maintain all the crocodiles.

The objective of the center is to breed and not to keep.

    (C) Space is limited for all the crocodiles to live together.
    (D) It is a regulation of the World Conservation Union that endangered species should not be kept in captivity.

For the eggs to be successfully incubated, the following are essential except

    (A) safe 'nests'
    (B) light
    (C) warmth

muddy banks


Why are lakes an essential feature of these centers ?


Lakes are part of the natural habitat of the crocodile.

    (B) Water is essential for the mating process of the crocodile.
    (C) The crocodile lays its eggs in muddy banks.
    (D) There must be sufficient water for the crocodiles to drink.
  6. The success of breeding schemes is measured by
    (A) how good follow-up research is

how well the crocodiles survive and breed

    (C) how well the crocodiles know the difficult terrain of their habitat
    (D) how committed the Ministry is to the project
  7. The author hopes that natural instincts will take over. What does he mean by this ?

That the natural instinct of the crocodile to survive will enable it to do so

    (B) That Nature takes over and protects the crocodile
    (C) That people's kind instincts will not allow them to kill the crocodile
    (D) That the instinct of predators will allow the crocodile to survive
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  Answers : 1) D    2) C    3) B    4) D    5) A     6) B     7) A

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Comprehension 1


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