Gloria’s biological clock is ticking.
That’s why the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach is moving Gloria, an endangered species of Tomistoma crocodile, to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in an attempt to match her with a suitable genetic mate to help continue her species.
Currently 30 years old and reaching over 11 feet long, Gloria is one of 28 false gharial, or Tomistoma, crocodiles in North America in human care, with only five potential breeding pairs.
With Gloria still capable of breeding and being part of the Species Survival Plan, the Virginia Aquarium gives their farewell to the crocodile that they’ve treated for six years, knowing it’s best for her species.
“While we will miss Gloria, we understand the integral role that she can play in the AZA Species Survival Program,” Chip Harshaw, herpetologist curator at Virginia Aquarium said in a news release. “This is a move that is in the best interest of Gloria, the Tomistoma species, and the crocodilian community.”
Tomistoma crocodiles are listed as a vulnerable species on the Red List of Threatened Species and endangered, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The species has been a victim of habitat destruction, drowning in fishing nets and overfishing of food resources. With estimates of 2,500 remaining in the wild, experts at both zoos felt it was crucial for Gloria find a mate.
Gloria is an unique crocodile that is owned by Bronx Zoo, but was on a breeding loan at Virginia Aquarium and now in St. Augustine. She will remain in St. Augustine as long as there is a suitable mate available for her.
Gloria was the product of the first successful breeding of Tomistoma in the U.S. During her time in Virginia, she was paired with a male Tomistoma, named Grover, that passed away in 2013. After his death, Gloria was left alone and no other males were brought to breed with her.
The Alligator Farm Park where Gloria will find her new home, is the only place in the world where one can see every living species of crocodilian. The park is home to around 150 species and holds five critically endangered crocodiles at the park; Gloria’s species being one of them.
Gen Anderson, the general curator at the Alligator Farm Zoological Park, said St. Augustine was selected because it expressed interest and thought it was the one to figure out how to house these crocodiles for future breeding.
“This is a species that is endangered in the wild and is also really rare in captivity, so that makes it even more important to work with our existing animals here,” Anderson said.
Her move to Florida will be important because St. Augustine is on the waiting list for an adult male, Anderson said. The zoo is also modifying its crocodile section to provide extra space for Gloria and Georgia, which is another female crocodile from St. Louis that will arrive at the same time as Gloria.
Gloria’s last day on exhibit at the Virginia Aquarium was on Sunday and arrived at St. Augustine on Wednesday.
“It’s been a handful of years,” Anderson said. “It’s still going to be an adjustment for her. She (Gloria) won’t realize it’s a homecoming.”