thedragonwoodconservancy on ig
laser gun gator boys
oh my god i didn’t realize this video had audio
Okay as adorable as this looks, I’m pretty sure that’s a distress sound? A “mommy help me I’m scared come save me!” sound?
This video is from Dragonwood Wildlife Conservancy, and they are yearling (last year’s babies) Cuban crocodiles. Good news for you, this isn’t actually a distress call! According to @kaijutegu (and her giant bookshelf full of reptile resources), the laser sounds are an affiliative social call that young Cuban crocodiles use to communicate with their parents. They normally stop making the noise at around two years old, which is approximately when they start dispersing from the family group.
See, Cuban crocodiles are a super social species - and one of the few where the fathers stick around and provide paternal care for the babies! In the wild, babies would regularly interact with both parents, including when they provide food. This call is basically the type of vocalization that the babies use to communicated with their parents.
These crocodiles are being hand-raised as part of a private-sector breeding and reintroduction program (because the parents are so protective of their offspring that if you left them the babies to raise, you’d never be able to safely get close to them), and so they’re responding to the guy in the video the same way because he’s constant known safe individual and also the provider of food. He’s not a threat - his presence is a good thing, and he’s worth interacting with because it normally means food. You can also tell from their behavior and body language that they’re not stressed: some of the crocodiles are actively climbing on him and interaction of their own volition, but the ones that aren’t don’t show any indicators of hyper-vigilance. If that were a distress call, every crocodile that heard it would be alert and on edge looking for the threat. Distress calls tend to only happen once or twice, because in the wild continuing to make noise makes a baby more vulnerable: so these crocodiles wouldn’t be continually vocalizing if they felt threatened. There’s no snapping or gaping or freezing, all of which would be behavioral indicators of distress or discomfort. (Here’s a video of a baby nile crocodile being harassed by photographers which will give you a visual reference for both freezing and gaping.)
So, hey, this is certifiably cute - and good for conservation!