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Published: Tuesday, 4/16/2013

Crocodile quick to adapt since his overseas arrival

Toledo Zoo director: Baru showing an interest in food

BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Sailer Sailer
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Toledo’s newest reptilian resident, a 17-foot crocodile, is settling in nicely to his spiffy new surroundings, said Jeff Sailer, the Toledo Zoo’s executive director, during a speech Monday.

“He’s the quintessential giant crocodile, very mellow,” he told his audience of business people at the Rotary Club of Toledo luncheon at the Park Inn. “He quickly took to his new home and is lounging around.”

The crocodile, named Baru, arrived April 5 after a 30-hour journey from Australia. The 1,540-pound creature is the centerpiece of the zoowide Wild Walkabout Australian exhibit, which opens May 24.

Mr. Sailer’s presentation detailed the construction of the crocodile’s exhibit in the reptile house, as well as information about some of the other animals that will be part of the Wild Walkabout. The exhibit includes wallabies, dingoes, cassowaries, and some of Australia’s deadliest snakes.

Baru, who was considered a nuisance in his native Australia for his killing of cattle, has shown interest in food much earlier than zookeepers expected, Mr. Sailer said.

“They can go six months without eating,” he said.

The crocodile spent the better part of two days in his exhibit intently eyeballing a dead chicken that had been put out for him, Mr. Sailer said.

“He eventually pulled it into the pond and played with it, but didn’t eat it,” Mr. Sailer said. “Apparently he was fed white chickens in Australia and this was a brown chicken, so he wouldn’t eat it. We are going to get him a white chicken ... and see if he likes that better.”

During a question-and-answer period, Dr. Riaz Chaudhary, Rotary Club president-elect, asked Mr. Sailer about the crocodile’s eating habits and metabolism.

“He has a very, very low metabolic rate,” Mr. Sailer said. “He also has physiological adapters, which are equipped to deal with what is essentially a boom or bust lifestyle” in terms of how often he is able to hunt food in the wild.

The crocodile and the rest of the Australian exhibit complement the zoo’s other offerings, which are mainly African, he said.

“We thought this would be something exciting for people to see,” he said. “He is truly fantastic. I can’t wait for everyone to come and see this animal. He is truly going to be a landmark for this region and this town.”

Mary Fedderke, director of institutional advancement at the Toledo Zoo, introduced Mr. Sailer’s presentation. She complimented him for his vision for the zoo’s future.

“Jeff has done a great job with team-building,” Mrs. Fedderke said. “He really has all of the management staff working hand-in-hand to make sure these things come about.”

Mrs. Fedderke said she values Mr. Sailer’s “collaborative spirit.” She commended him for partnering with other area institutions and organizations, such as joint events that are planned between the zoo and Toledo Museum of Art to tie together their respective Australian exhibits. The art museum is displaying Crossing Cultures, a collection of Aboriginal Australian art that will run until July 14.

The cost of bringing the crocodile to Toledo totaled $90,000 and included permits, hiring specially trained handlers who served as escorts, building a special crate, and flying him.

The cost of renovating the solarium in the Reptile House totaled $900,000 and is being paid for with money the zoo budgeted for seasonal exhibits, some of which is tax levy money, earned revenue from the operating fund, and private contributions.

The largest single private gift was a $150,000 donation from Block Communications Inc., the parent company of The Blade, as well as an additional in-kind donation consisting of free advertising in The Blade and on Buckeye CableSystem channels.

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com or 419-724-6066.



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