For over a decade, zookeepers at Sayaji Baug Zoo in India have hand-fed a mugger crocodile with a missing upper jaw. The animal lost a territorial fight with another male crocodile, resulting in the injury.
The attacking crocodile broke the jaw’s joint and tore out muscles from both sides of the mugger crocodile’s snout. While veterinarians were able to stitch the muscles back together, the creature’s jaw was irreparable. It eventually had to be partially amputated.
The animal’s caretakers can be seen tossing pieces of meat into the 25-year-old crocodile’s mouth in the video.
“In absence of the upper jaw, the reptile cannot hunt or grasp food on its own. Someone has to feed it to him,” zoo curator Dr. Pratyush Patankar said, according to Newsflare.
Over the years the crocodile has learned to recognize the zookeepers and their bucket of food. Each time they approach, he swims towards the edge of his pond habitat to be served. Dr. Patankar explained that reptiles eat by swallowing not by chewing, which is likely why he was able to survive.
“It is an accomplishment that the crocodile has survived for over a decade after losing his upper jaw. It is because of the dedication of the keepers,” said Dr. Patankar.
While India’s Central Zoo Authority forbids zoos from displaying injured or disabled animals, Dr. Patankar doesn’t believe they are any less important.
“They, however, are very much part of our zoo family in every other way,” Dr. Patankar said.
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