Large saltwater crocodiles in the Whitsunday region will soon be monitored to determine their movements in relation to nearby popular tourist areas.
- Satellite tracking devices will be attached to crocodiles in the Proserpine River later this year
- Scientist claims river has highest density of crocodiles in Queensland
- DES plans to target large saltwater males to determine their movements
The entrance to the Proserpine River, less than 25 kilometers south of Airlie Beach, includes a section of river that is home to some of Queensland’s largest crocodiles, according to the Department of Environment and Science. [DES] program coordinator Matthew Brien.
Dr Brien said there was not much habitat in the area to occupy.
“There are a lot of fangs, a lot of big fangs, in a little area of Proserpine [River],” he said.
“We’re only talking about 15 to 20 kilometers that these animals are in.
“It’s kind of like Jurassic Park.”
In addition to their size, Dr Brien said the department was particularly aware of the high number of people living in such a concentrated area.
“The Proserpine River has the highest density of crocodiles in Queensland,” he said.
“There are five and a half crocodiles per kilometer.
“The average in Queensland is one per kilometer, and the second highest is around three and a half per kilometer, which is in the North West Cape. [Peninsula].
“It is unusual to have such a density of crocodiles so far south.
“It’s an anomaly.”
Satellite transfer to use
The department plans to launch a surveillance program in October or November this year, which Dr. Brien said would not only be used for tracking, but also to learn more about the behavior and social hierarchy of coexisting adult men. in such a dense population.
“We’re looking to answer that question by putting satellite trackers on some of these animals to better understand movement and how they interact with each other.”
Dr Brien said nighttime traps would be used to attach half a dozen nuchal shield trackers on each animal’s neck, which usually remain in place for one to two years, and collect data.
This will be the first time satellite tracking has been used on crocodiles in the Proserpine River by DES, with Dr Brien citing public safety as a key motivating factor.
“Obviously, the Proserpina [River] is on the doorstep of some fairly major tourist destinations.”
Concerns for local tourism
But the Proserpine River is one of these tourist attractions.
Steve Watson has been running crocodile tours on the Proserpine River for over 20 years and said he was worried about the impact of the initial trapping.
“My main concern about this is that if they choose to catch and fit devices to the crocodiles that we see on a regular basis, I’m really concerned about their future behavior versus what we’re going to see on a cruise. “, did he declare. said.
“These crocs are actually the ones we identify with and have recognized their normal behaviors, so I expect that if they are caught or interfered with, that will completely change.”
Mr Watson said the experience helped visitors better understand the native reptiles.
“A lot of times people will make a comment at the end of the day that they just haven’t realized the roles that crocodiles have in the environment,” Mr Watson said.
“They just saw them as a ferocious predator that was feared.”
Tourism Whitsundays general manager Rick Hamilton said the unique habitat has become a major attraction for international and domestic visitors.
“The crocodile experience we have in the Proserpine area is one of the visitor highlights for the land based activities we have in the area,” he said.
Where do the crocodiles go?
While crocodiles are rarely spotted in nearby Whitsunday tourism hotspots, Dr Brien says it’s important to know if larger males leave their habitat.
“At this point we’ve had very little to no indication of the crocodiles venturing onto islands and places like Airlie Beach, or not very often,” Dr Brien said.
“[But] there are a number of large animals in a small area so [we need to] understand what is happening now and what could happen in the future so that we can manage this and minimize the threat to public safety.”
It is hoped the results will add another layer of data to the number of crocodiles in the Proserpine River, which are recorded by DES every few years through nighttime searchlights and aerial surveys.