Crocs Thrive Despite Possible Radioactive Leak

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Why Florida Crocs Are Thriving Outside a Nuclear Power Plant

by Brigit Katz Smithsonian.com

Back in the 1970s, the future was not looking bright for the American crocodile, a hulking but shy reptile that once made its home throughout the mangrove and estuarine regions of South Florida. Due to over-hunting and habitat destruction, the species’ numbers had dwindled to fewer than 300 individuals in the state. In 1975, Florida’s American crocodiles were listed as endangered.

But just two years later, something unexpected happened. Employees at the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station, located around 25 miles south of Miami, spotted a crocodile nest among the plant’s man-made network of cooling canals. Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL), the company that operates the plant, set up a program to monitor and protect the crocodiles that had settled in this unusual habitat. And ever since, the plant’s resident croc population has been booming.

According to Marcus Lim of the Associated Press, FPL wildlife specialists collected 73 crocodile hatchlings just last week, and are expecting dozens more to emerge into the world over the remainder of the summer. Twenty-five percent of the 2,000 American crocodiles that now live in the United States call Turkey Point home, and the FPL has been credited with helping down-list the species’ status from “endangered” to “threatened”—a change that happened in 2007.

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