The majority of reptiles are useful and do silent service controlling agricultural pests, both insects and rodents but excite little interest to man. If it were not for venomous snakes and large crocodilians, reptiles as a group would be largely ignored, certainly in the tropics where most species and the largest occur. The greatest danger to this group of animals is the demand for their skins for commercial purposes. The skin trade has made crocodiles endangered and the demand for snake and lizard skin, despite legal protection, remains a constant threat to the survival of monitor lizards and pythons.
Crocodilians include two species of alligator, the American and Chinese. The largest animals living here in the Swamp House at the moment are the American species.
Also exhibited are Marsh or Mugger Crocodiles and younger but fast growing Estuarine or Salt Water Crocodiles. The former come from fresh water rivers and lakes in India. Estuarine Crocodiles are distributed more widely from S.E. Asia to Northern Australia. Individuals can grow to be the largest of all present day reptiles. Younger crocodiles eat amphibians and fish. Larger ones may take mammals as large as deer, antelope or wild pigs when they come down to drink and even the occasional, usually foolish, man!
Reticulated Pythons are more confined to forests where their colour patterns allow for better camouflage. They climb well but will live in caves and holes in the ground, particularly after eating large meals the size of deer, pigs or antelope. Live prey animals are asphixiated by the powerful constricting muscles of the body. Digestion may take a week or longer. Even here, when they are given dead animals, the snakes still go through the process of constriction before swallowing them.
Indian or Burmese Pythons do not grow quite as large, up to 6 metres, and when not persecuted are able to live in a wide range of habitats.