February 2005

Wild... In K-Zone

Click article to enlarge

K-Zone February 2004


News Source: K-Zone, page 88 & 89, February 2004
By: Sally Townsend
Web: www.kzone.com.au

Crocs in Space! No, we are not relocating crocodiles to Mars (although that would be fun!).

The Crocs In Space research project is the first of its kind in the world. Steve Irwin and Australia Zoo got together with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and University of Queensland to implement a new way of tracking large Estuarine Crocodile (saltwater crocs) using satellite transmitters.

You would think that after 60 million years we would know everything there is to know about crocodiles but they’re still a bit of a mystery. The satellite transmitters will help us to learn a lot more about the movements and behaviors of these massive prehistoric creatures.

It’s really hard work catching the crocs, attaching the transmitters and releasing them again, but Steve and his team also had a whole lot of fun on their most recent trip to far North Queensland. Steve and the crew caught 33 gnarly crocs in just 14 days! Nine salties were fitted with transmitters. One of these crocs was named Snapper because he was determined to launch himself at Steve and snap him up! It’s a good thing our Crocodile Hunter is quick on his feet.

This four metre long Saltwater Crocodile was caught in a mesh bag trap. While some of the crocs were transported by helicopter to new locations, Snapper was put onto a trailer and pulled along by a vehicle to his release site. Snapper was a good boy during the trip and he didn’t thrash around when the road was bumpy like some crocs do.

Since his release, Snapper has travelled almost all of the 6.5 kilometers back to his original location and helped the Crocs in Space team to learn a bit more about these awesome apex predators.

The Irwin family have been relocating crocodiles for over 30 years. Back in 1970, they formed what is now known as the Australia Zoo Crocodile Rescue Unit. In those days, crocodiles weren’t protected by the government so they were almost hunted to extinction.

Finally, in 1974, the government agreed to protect the species. However, by the 1980s, crocs were once again being labeled as “problem animals”. The government introduced a program that involved relocating crocs living in areas populated by humans to more remote locations.

Steve and his dad Bob captured and relocated many crocs in this time. When a crocodile was in an area were relocation in the wild was impossible, they offered to help out by bringing them back to Australia Zoo. This meant they were saved from their only other option which was death.

One salty who was in danger of being shot dead by 6 locals was our Agro, named because of his aggressive behaviour. Agro is still a favourite here at Australia Zoo and a regular star of The Crocodile Hunter series. He was lucky Steve rescued him and brought him back to Australia Zoo and we feel pretty lucky to have him. Agro is one of many crocs who help us to educate people about crocodiles – how we can co-exist with them and why they are beautiful and misunderstood animals, which we should treasure.

Have a go at this... Crocs can hold their breath underwater for up to three hours.

Crocs can live for over 100 years.

Crocodiles have a third eyelid. This one is transparent and enables them to see through the water as they swim. It's just like whacking on a pair of goggles.

Just because they are called Saltwater Crocs, doesn't mean they only live in saltwater. They can also be found in freshwater and in all kinds of waterways like lakes, rivers, billabongs and even the ocean.

Next time you're at Australia Zoo check out all the croc enclosures and you will see crocs laying about in the sun, perfectly still and with their mouths wide open. They do this for 'thermoregulation', which heats their bodies through their mouths. It won't work for us humans through so you better just stick to grabbing a jumper.