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Scientist of the Invisible

Too much ammunition lately, not enough self-control.

Steve Irwin - Crocodile Hunter Topwetenschapper!

Satellite Tracking Reveals Long Distance Coastal Travel and Homing by Translocated Estuarine Crocodiles, Crocodylus porosus

Mark A. Read1, Gordon C. Grigg2, Steve R. Irwin3, Danielle Shanahan2, Craig E. Franklin2*

1 Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Cairns, Queensland, Australia, 2 School of Integrative Biology, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia, 3 Australia Zoo, Beerwah, Queensland, Australia

Abstract

Crocodilians have a wide distribution, often in remote areas, are cryptic, secretive and are easily disturbed by human presence. Their capacity for large scale movements is poorly known. Here, we report the first study of post-release movement patterns in translocated adult crocodiles, and the first application of satellite telemetry to a crocodilian. Three large male Crocodylus porosus (3.1–4.5 m) were captured in northern Australia and translocated by helicopter for 56, 99 and 411 km of coastline, the last across Cape York Peninsula from the west coast to the east coast. All crocodiles spent time around their release site before returning rapidly and apparently purposefully to their capture locations. The animal that circumnavigated Cape York Peninsula to return to its capture site, travelled more than 400 km in 20 days, which is the longest homeward travel yet reported for a crocodilian. Such impressive homing ability is significant because translocation has sometimes been used to manage potentially dangerous C. porosus close to human settlement. It is clear that large male estuarine crocodiles can exhibit strong site fidelity, have remarkable navigational skills, and may move long distances following a coastline. These long journeys included impressive daily movements of 10–30 km, often consecutively.

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