The juvenile saltwater crocodiles are the latest addition to a Co Kerry aquarium, along with other reptiles including iguanas, caimans, bearded dragons, tortoises and snakes that have also been rescued because their original owners no longer wanted them.
Director at Dingle’s Oceanworld Aquarium, marine biologist Kevin Flannery, now fears that when the new reptile enclosure opens on St Patrick’s Day, they’ll be inundated by other owners wanting to offload unwanted pets.
“Saltwater crocodiles grow extremely big and they are one of the most dangerous crocodiles but people acquire them without considering this and then realise they’re not able to look after them,” Mr Flannery said.
“We got ours from the reptile zoo in Co Kilkenny and all of these were rescued from private collectors in Ireland and in the UK. They can be easily purchased and they’re brought in in the boots of cars and there’s no regulation or register of owners.
“There’s no agency in this country for taking them in, other than ourselves. We even had to stop taking in terrapins, we were left with so many of them,” he said.
Mr Flannery said people are also feeding these reptiles completely unsuitable food because they have no idea about their diet. He said one terrapin owner was so clueless she had been feeding it smoked salmon.
“Education and conservation is going to be key going forward as we have less borders. At least there are pounds for abandoned dogs but these poor devils are being flushed down toilets,” he said.
He would also like to see far stricter regulation but realises this would be hard to implement. The new exhibitions at the Dingle aquarium represents a €750,000 investment in the facility, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in April.
It will also house six Asian short-clawed otters. These lively and inquisitive creatures can be seen scampering around their new outdoor area at the aquarium, which is also home to a colony of gentoo penguins, sharks and others.
There will also be daily handling sessions so visitors will have a chance to get up close and personal with the new arrivals. “After 20 years of being successful at what we’re doing we had to add on something different, so this has a rainforest theme and an outdoor area where people can watch the otters at play,” he said.
Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium has received more than two million visitors since it opened and is now one of the country’s top, privately-owned tourist attractions with around 100,000 visitors each year.