MIAMI (AP) — Officials at Zoo Miami have been welcoming critically endangered baby Orinoco crocodiles over the past week.
The mother laid 45 eggs on Feb. 5 at the South Florida park, and they began hatching last week, the zoo announced on Facebook.
To prevent any loss due to predation or extreme weather, zoo staff collected the eggs several days after they were laid and placed them into incubators.
The hatching period is spread out over nearly two weeks because the eggs have been incubated at different temperatures, officials said. The sex of all crocodilians is determined by the temperature that the eggs are incubated at, with cooler temperatures producing females and warmer temperatures producing males.
Officials hope to return the endangered reptiles to the wild eventually. Orinoco crocodiles are found in isolated pockets of the Orinoco River basin in Venezuela and the Meta River basin in Colombia. Historical records show males can grow up to 20 feet (6 meters) in length.