Staff at Woodside Wildlife Park near Lincoln have recovered four eggs laid by a pair of endangered crocodiles.
The Siamese crocodiles, Scar and Hayley, are part of an international breeding programme.
Head-keeper, Ben Pascoe, said: “We’ve had the two crocodiles, of only four breeding adult species in the UK, for the last two years and it will be a massive thing for us if we get some baby crocodiles.”
Mr Pascoe explained how the crocodiles were lured into a pool before it was drained, allowing keepers to move the eggs to an incubated and controlled environment.
“We got in, took the eggs, got out, then Hayley came over and checked for them.
“It sounds cruel from a mothering perspective, but they’re used to having eggs taken in the wild, so within twenty minutes she was back under the water like nothing had happened.”
“Of course, it was potentially dangerous, the male is around eight feet long and has a bite twice the strength of a Bengal tiger.
“It’s a waiting game now, but the eggs are currently in incubators so we have our fingers crossed.”
The wildlife park, which opened in 2001, has expanded rapidly over the last five years and is now home to over 200 animals including tigers, red pandas, lynx and birds of prey, with a penguin enclose due to open at the end of May.
Mr Pascoe said: “We are only a small wildlife park, but we are continually working with larger collections, and contributing to various international breeding programs, for a number of critically endangered species around the world.
“Like with our crocodiles, the aim is to help with conserving the species, but it’s a long game.
“The next generation won’t be released into the wild, hopefully the one after, but it could take 50 years or more.”
Siamese crocodiles, found in parts of south-east Asian countries including Thailand and Cambodia, are critically endangered, with less than 1,000 mature adults remaining in the wild.
by Tom McBeth