Harry sits on the weighing scale. The baby Nile crocodile is fed on alternate days a mixture of minced beef and chicken. Image Credit: Megan Hirons Mahon/Gulf News

Dubai: Harry, a baby Nile crocodile rescued from the illegal animal trade in endangered species as part of a Gulf News investigation and handed over to Dubai Zoo for permanent care is in poor health.

The six-month-old reptile has lost about 13 grams since he was first handed over to the zoo, weighing in at a mere 45.5 grams on Monday.

On his arrival to the zoo in December he measured 25 centimetres and weighed 50 grams. When Gulf News visited him in January, he had grown to 26.5 cm and weighed in at 59 grams.

The loss of appetite has been ongoing for about 2 months said Reza Khan, wildlife consultant at Dubai Zoo. Harry had to be force fed in the early days to accustom him to life in captivity, but now he just refuses food altogether.

Keeping dangerous and rare animals like Harry as pets is not helping to protect the species despite what people may think. And smugglers trading in these animals without the proper permits are only cheating their customers, said Khan.

As the zoo struggles to keep Harry alive despite him receiving 24 hour professional care, this simply reiterates how tricky it is to keep an animal like a crocodile as a pet.

Changes have been made inside the zoo to accommodate him better, said Khan, such as moving him from a water-based terrarium to a sandier one with access to a small bowl of water. His pen is inside a larger one that is home to small Thomas's Spiny-tailed Agama lizards that were confiscated by customs from someone entering the UAE.
"He is basking in the sun most of the time. He rarely goes into the water," said Khan. "He hasn't recovered very well and is not eating properly. We have been force-feeding him most of the time. Sometime we allow him to eat on his own but he takes one piece of meat [raw chicken] then stops. It is not very regular for a baby," he added.

"This baby has passed through a lot of trauma, we do not know from where it has come, from which country and how much distance he has travelled from Africa to the UAE, so it has not recovered from the shock," said Khan.

Read in-depth coverage of the illegal animal trade in the UAE

Dr Mohammad Wazed Modah, zoo veterinary said Harry's environment had been changed to try and provide him with more sunlight. The temperature in his new terrarium is around 36 degrees Celsius. "I'm scared for him," he said.

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