Friday, September 28, 2007
The Times Online (UK) reported yesterday on crocodile navigation systems.
Australian scientists have discovered that the long-established practice of capturing and removing the most aggressive crocodiles from Outback swimming holes used by tourists, and dumping them in remote locations, could be a waste of time. They can find their way back.
In fact they are capable of complex navigation over long distances.
The findings - released this week by a University of Queensland team in the online scientific journal PloS ONE - followed the world’s first satellite tracking study of wild crocodiles undertaken by the University of Queensland and Australia Zoo, which was founded by Steve Irwin, the naturalist who was killed by a stingray last year.
Three of the beasts were taken from their home rivers in far northern Queensland by helicopter and carried hundreds of miles before being released in distant locations. All three made it back to their home rivers, swimming between 6 and 19 miles a day. One swam round the northern tip of Australia to reach its home after a journey of more than 250 miles in 20 days.
Each of the crocodiles spent weeks exploring its new location before setting out on its homeward journey. The study observed: “It is noteworthy that all three individuals spent some time at the release point before embarking on an apparently purposeful and direct travel homewards.
This is not good news for people in crocodile-infested regions. But it's always good to know the truth. Now the Australian government agencies can save the money they would have used for relocating the rogues, and they can use it on something more helpful. Perhaps a bullet for the man-eaters.