SATELLITE SPY REVEALS CROC SHOCKS
News Source: The Courier Mail, page 15, Saturday 14th August, 2004
By: Glenis Green
As scientific research goes, it was pretty painful.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife expert Mark Read broke two ribs and even the Crocodile Hunter himself, Steve Irwin, fractured a finger.
But the initial results from this Queensland team’s world-first project to track huge saltwater crocodiles by satellite have blown everyone out of the water.
Even Irwin has been “stunned” that all the long-held beliefs about croc behaviour have been proven wrong.
Far from being solitary, slothful animals with one dominant male defending a set territory, Queensland’s estuarine crocodiles have been revealed as living sociable, energetic lives.
They are also capable of walking up to 5km overland between waterholes, and have a keen homing instinct.
The project is the first time in the world that satellite technology has been used to track a group of saltwater crocodiles, and Queensland Environment Minister John Mickel is confident it will have major implication for managing crocodiles in urban areas throughout the world.
Unveiling the findings at Irwin’s Australia Zoo at Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast this week, Mr Mickel said the project had been a partnership between the Zoo, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and the Queensland University.
The project began last year when Dr Read, Irwin and other Zoo staff travelled to far north Queensland where they caught several large crocodiles on which they glued specially designed fist-sized satellite transmitters.
The exercise saw both Irwin and Dr Read suffer broken bones from the thrashing animals, which cannot be sedated safely.
Irwin’s wife Terri said the tracking yielded amazing results in the first three months.
One of the big crocs had been moved 80km down the coast, she said. “He spent two weeks swimming up and down the shoreline before finding his way back to the same waterhole where we caught him – including overland treks of one and two miles.”
Mr Mickel said the findings had ramifications for Queensland’s adventure tourism industry.