Mugger Crocodile | Sri Lanka Wildlife Guide
Although there have not been many extensive studies of the lives and behaviors of mugger crocodiles, they are the species that opened the eyes of researchers to the fact that crocodilians are likely much more intelligent than they have been given credit for. In 2007, a psychology researcher named Vladimir Dinets saw a mugger crocodile in India laying in the shallows by a bird rookery during the breeding season for the birds. What stood out to him was the fact that the crocodiles he observed had sticks laying across their heads and snouts. During this time of year, the birds are desperately looking for sticks to build their nests, and the crocodiles were taking advantage of this by using sticks as lures–the first evidence of tool use in reptiles. If a bird approached to take a stick, it became a quick meal for the croc. This behavior only takes place during the nest-building season near rookeries and has also been observed in American alligators, suggesting that higher-level intelligence might be more widespread in reptiles than originally thought.
The mugger crocodile is the top predator in its habitat, so it is critical for maintaining the overall balance of the ecosystems where it is found. Although they are protected throughout their range, they are listed as “vulnerable” due to reductions in habitat and illegal hunting of their eggs for the black market.