Queensland researchers have created a network attached to 139 crocodiles on Cape York that is shedding light on which animals are most likely to cause problems when coming into contact with humans.
The research program, led by University of Queensland biological sciences professor Craig Franklin, began in 2008.
It involves fitting waterproof transmitters to estuarine crocodiles ranging in size from one metre up to five metres.
The tags are tracked by satellite, “giving researchers real time and precise information of crocodile movements in remote locations,” the university said.
With seven years of data already collected, the researchers have now found some significant patterns.
“We’ve discovered a strong relationship between crocodile size and how they use the environment,” Professor Franklin said.
“Small crocs hide in creeks and the big guys up to five metres long are the top crocs of water holes. It’s middle-size crocs, about 3 to 3.5 metres long, that seem to be nomadic — and these are the ones causing problems for humans.
“By monitoring their movements we are starting to understand what wildlife managers are seeing on the ground with animals moving outside their normal ranges.”
Franklin said mid-sized crocodiles could move up to 60km a day and 1000km a year.
“We’ve tracked them moving 0.7 metres a second using tides to their advantage,” he said.
Franklin and his team are now hoping to build computer models “to predict where estuarine crocs might travel with future climate change.”