American Crocodile Finds Refuge from Extinction in Nuclear Power Plant

Ken Mayer/CC BY 2.0

The American crocodile was going extinct. Two sanctuaries built in Florida to promote crocodile nesting had not succeeded to restore populations. But now the crocs are making a comeback in the 168 miles of cooling water canals surrounding the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant, run by Florida Power and Light (FPL).

State wildlife officials partially credit FPL for the five-fold increase in American crocodile population since the 1970's. The story may sound familiar to many operators of industrial facilities: the nuclear power plant started operation and then found the endangered crocodiles had made a nest in their canals. Instead of following a natural instinct to clean house to prevent a scary crocodile infestation, the plant operators obeyed laws to protect endangered species that might be harmed by the industrial presence. The plant became involved in a monitoring program which now tracks endangered loggerhead turtles and manatees as well as crocodiles.

During nesting season, over 40 adult crocodiles can be seen in the canals that recirculate cooling water to the nuclear plant, according to an FPL FAQ. News reports indicate that the combined population of adult and adolescent crocodiles is ten times that number. Perhaps we should not be surprised that a species that is put in the mood for love by jet engine noise thrives in nuclear cooling water.

The reason is obvious though: people avoid nuclear cooling canals like the plague, leaving the crocs alone to find a mate and get down to the baby making business. A sad truth underlies this mutually advantageous land-sharing proposition: a nuclear power plant serves as the only place left for a crocodile to find some peace and quiet.

The American crocodile has been moved from the endangered list to merely threatened, as babies born in the shadow of nuclear power spread across the state of Florida. According to the most recent survey, the crocodile population has recovered from less than 300 to about 1500.

More on Crocodiles:
Supersonic Jets Put Crocodiles in the Mood for Love
Giant Crocodile Devours a Shark as Tourists Look On
Man Hunts Crocodile That Has Eaten Over 200 People
Crocodiles Surf Currents to Explore Their Realm

Tags: Endangered Species | Florida | Nuclear Power

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