Australia Zoo, in partnership with the University of Queensland (UQ) and Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors, are making monumental strides in the field of crocodilian research and conservation. Steve Irwin began formal crocodile research in 1996 - his capture and study techniques remain the most advanced in the world.
The Australia Zoo team continue Steve’s work to uncover the mysterious lives of crocodiles. This work has been greatly assisted through the use of GPS satellite tracking technology, time depth recorders and temperature recorders. Much of the information recorded has been merged with existing information from various sources to produce incredible insights into the lives of these secretive creatures.
Currently Australia Zoo is half way through a ten year study using acoustic telemetry to boost research efficiency and accuracy in the field. This world-renowned research project focuses on capturing and tagging Estuarine Crocodiles (commonly known as "salties") in the Wenlock River running through the newly protected Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Far North Queensland.
Acoustic Telemetry is used to track the Estuarine Crocodiles in the Wenlock River. Once captured, an acoustic tag is surgically implanted in the crocodile’s armpit. These acoustic tags send a signal to an array of around 50 receiving stations set up on the length of the Wenlock River and some surrounding water bodies. These signals are logged and when analysed enable us to discover how the crocodiles are using the river and interacting with each other.
The Crocodiles are also fitted with GPS-Satellite transmitters which record and track their behaviour, position and physiology in their natural habitat. Data is transmitted by satellite back to a laboratory and displayed on Google Earth.
Another exciting new part of our research developing on The Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve is isotopic analysis. We hope that isotopic analysis will identify markers in bloods/muscle/bone to give us an insight into what makes up the natural diet of the Estuarine Crocodile and just how important the role they play is in their natural environment.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for us as there are many questions that remain unanswered. This vital research has provided insights into the travel range of a single crocodile, their ability to return to their habitat after relocation, revolutionary findings on their ability to remain submerged and their behaviour during flood events. All this information is critical in learning how to successfully manage our wild crocodile populations.
Each research trip to the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve continues to break new ground in crocodile research globally and is central to managing the co-existence of crocodiles and people.
Additional Crocodile Research by Professor Craig Franklin:
- Remote Monitoring of Crocodilians
- Home Range Utilisation and Long Range Movement of Esturine Crocodiles during the Breeding and Nesting Season.