Up a tree
Which animals might you expect to see in a tree? Birds, of course, and squirrels, bears, chameleons and snakes. All depending on where that tree stands. And crocodiles. Although that last addition to the list may seem strange, it has now been demonstrated scientifically: crocodiles can climb trees.
Though there had been previous reports of it, no research had yet been conducted on tree-climbing among crocodiles. There were occasionally descriptions of young crocodiles that climbed into bushes or reeds just as chameleons do. And although it has long been suggested that extinct crocodiles could probably climb trees, details of their climbing capacity had never been described. An academic paper in Herpetology Notes has now brought clarity. Bundled in this paper are the existing published information and anecdotes, and also a report of the authors’ own observations. The investigators saw four species of crocodiles, from two different families, climb into trees. This evidence suggests that climbing is a normal crocodile behaviour. The animals can climb a few metres high; because they weigh less, however, young crocodiles can get up higher.
The researchers state that there are two reasons why crocodiles climb trees. The first is that these animals, especially when living in densely forested areas, can benefit more from the sun. However, as crocodiles also climb in the evening and at night, there must be another reason. According to the investigators, the second reason is that the animals can observe their habitat better from a higher vantage point.
The body of a crocodile is not actually adapted to climbing trees. The scientists say that it can best be compared to a steep incline: as long as a branch is broad enough, and not too steep, climbing it can be like walking up a steep ramp.