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Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders
3 February 2006
Greg Hunt MP , Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage said today that a leading edge satellite tracking program in Kakadu National Park is shedding new light on the behaviour of saltwater crocodiles.
Mr Hunt said that Kakadu's crocodile management team has attached satellite tags to 12 saltwater crocodiles and are confounded by the behaviour of a young male saltie called Kapalga.
"Kapalga is a young three metre male saltie, a very healthy bull, who has travelled large distances from the mouth of the South Alligator since tags were attached in late October."
"He's travelled upstream 74 kilometres through water with densities as high as 20-30 crocs a kilometre, almost to Yellow Water. He's obviously managed to evade the much large boss crocodiles on his journey raising questions about patterns of dominance."
"His journey highlights how much movement there is by saltwater crocodiles in the wet season - and how far upstream they can get. Kapalga has now returned downstream past his release site. He has travelled over 180 kilometres since his capture and release in late October."
"The big question for the crocodile management team is whether Kapalga and other saltwater crocodiles will return to their original habitat in the dry," Mr Hunt said.
The crocodile research project in Kakadu is run by Kakadu's croc expert, Garry Lindner, in partnership with Aboriginal traditional owners, Charles Darwin University, Wildlife Management International, the Northern Territory Tourist Commission and the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Service.
A number of other crocodiles have been fitted with transmitters outside the park.
A crocodile that was caught in Arnhem Land to the east and released in Shady Camp to Kakadu's west, has already travelled more than 80 kilometres and now seems to be heading back to his original home.
"We are hoping to find out more about how far salties move and where they go in the wet season - and where they go in the dry."
"This is the first stage of a two year research project which we hope will help us predict croc behaviour. The research aims include quantifying the degree to which size, age, sex and barriers such as dry land can be used to predict movement upstream. It will be especially useful to find out what barriers prevent salties colonising freshwater areas.
"The satellite tags are helping us test the theory that saltwater crocodiles which disperse well upstream are seasonal migrants that return downstream to core areas during the breeding season. We need to know why some vagrant migrants may stay in these swimming areas until they are removed by park management.
"It's all part of balancing the tourism appeal of crocs, protecting visitors to the park and managing salties in the wild," Mr Hunt said
Kristy McSweeney (Mr Hunt's office) 0415 740 722
Note: Map attached and pictures/colour map are available electronically on request.
Satellite tracking program in Kakadu National Park for Saltwater Crocodiles