Krysko, who works at UF’s Florida Museum of Natural History, said the captured crocodiles matched genetically, meaning they are related to one another, but didn’t match Nile crocs kept at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and other licensed Florida attractions. That means the crocs probably were brought to Florida illegally by an unlicensed reptile collector who either didn’t contain them properly, allowing them to escape, or, more sinisterly, planted them in the Everglades in hopes they would multiply.
The Nile croc, if it became established in the Everglades, would pose another invasive threat to its teetering ecosystem. Through crossbreeding, they could endanger the smaller, less aggressive American crocodiles, which have never been responsible for a confirmed human death in the U.S. About 1,000 American crocodiles live in South Florida, mostly in mangroves and estuaries. Any hybrids would degrade the genetic integrity of the endangered American variety.