Grover was found dead early Tuesday morning when keepers went to the enclosure. His mate, "Gloria," appeared to be in good health. Grover was 13 feet long and 28-years-old. The pair at the Virginia Beach aquarium was one of only 7 pairs of the rare Tomistoma schlegelii species in the United States.
The Tomistoma is commonly referred to as the False Gharial. With less than 2,500 of these crocodilians left in the world, they were put on the endangered species list. They are native to the Malaysian peninsula, Sarawak, Sumatra and Borneo.
Living in freshwater inland rivers, swamps and lakes, the male gharial can grow to lengths of 13-16 feet and weigh as much as 460 pounds. What sets them apart from other crocodile species is their extremely long snout, filled with long, needle-sharp teeth.
Gloria and Grover were able to produce several eggs, though none were fertile. The pair also received regular health check-ups by the veterinary staff and seemed to be in good health. Losing an endangered animal, whether in the wild or in captivity is always difficult.
Aquarium Executive Director Lynn Clements said in a statement:
“It is always a tragedy to lose an animal, but losing such a rare and precious one is doubly difficult. Certainly our staff, and many of our regular visitors, will mourn his loss.”