‘Critically endangered’ crocodile at National Zoo in DC dies from presumed electrical injury

A 10-year-old male Cuban crocodile has died in its enclosure at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, according to a news release from the organization on Thursday.

The institute said that in the early morning hours of Dec. 17, the crocodile was found deceased, and that the cause was a “presumed electrical injury sustained in its indoor habitat.”



Institute staff determined that the crocodile attacked a replacement electrical outlet in the habitat, which was placed higher than the original outlet at approximately 4.5 feet off the ground, according to the release. The crocodile had been living in the habitat for years without incident.

“Known for their aggressive behavior, the crocodile pulled the electric equipment off the wall and bit various pieces,” the release said.

The institute said a final pathology report will confirm the cause of death. The institute also reported that safety procedures were followed, with the last inspection of the crocodile’s habitat completed at closing the night before on Dec. 16, and that the exhibit passed an accreditation inspection in 2018.

Cuban crocodiles are classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. The release said that an estimated 3,000 purebred Cuban crocodiles are left in the wild, and that they are found only “in a limited range in Cuba.”

The deceased crocodile had hatched at the National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in 2012 as part of a breeding program for the species. The institute is now installing redundant electrical breakers throughout the building to prevent a similar incident from occurring.

The institute said there are currently no plans to put another animal in the enclosure.

Dana Sukontarak

Dana Sukontarak is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. She loves haiku poetry, short sci-fi stories and word games. She grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and currently lives in Silver Spring.

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