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McKINLAY RIVER FRESHWATER CROCODILE PROJECT 2002

Wildlife Management International, based in Darwin, Australia, is offering opportunities for volunteers to take part in a study on the impact of cane toads on freshwater crocodile populations in the McKinlay River area of the Northern Territory, Australia.

WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE STUDY?
The study will document the extent and distribution of freshwater crocodiles in the region, build a complete picture of the species' population ecology, survival rates, migration and dispersal, and assess the impact of cane toads invading the region. Cane toads will affect freshwater crocodiles - the question is, to what extent?

WHO IS DOING THE RESEARCH?
Wildlife Management International is a private company specialising in wildlife research (http://www.wmi.com.au). The director, Dr Grahame Webb, has been working on crocodiles in Australia for over 30 years. WMI is internationally recognised for its research on crocodiles and other wildlife. The project leader in the field is Dr Adam Britton who has been working for WMI for over 5 years.

WHERE IS THE STUDY AREA?
The McKinlay River lies adjacent to the Mary River National Park, located approximately 150 km east of Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia, and just west of the world-heritage site Kakadu National Park. Early in the dry season the McKinlay River almost completely dries up, and its resident population of freshwater crocodiles (Crocodylus johnstoni) spreads out across the floodplain and occupies variously-sized bodies of freshwater (billabongs).

WHEN DOES THE STUDY TAKE PLACE?
Crocodile and cane toad surveys begin in late July and August 2002, and the main capture effort takes place from late August to late October 2002. The work will be repeated at the same time of year in 2003 when cane toads are predicted to occupy the entire river system.

WHAT DOES THE FIELDWORK INVOLVE?
Small teams use powerful spotlights at night to locate crocodiles from their eyeshines, and spot crocodiles by day. Capture teams set nets across water bodies and remove ensnared crocodiles for measurement and tagging. Hand-capture of crocodiles at night also takes place. Once the nets are removed, the crocodiles are released unharmed.

HOW CAN VOLUNTEERS BE INVOLVED?
Volunteers can be involved in most aspects of surveys, capture and measurement. Each person will be trained to use proper techniques and field procedures, including safety, and will work under the supervision of experienced researchers.

WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING?
You need your own camping gear - sleeping bag, "swag" or mattress, mosquito net or light tent, clothes and personal belongings. These can be purchased in Darwin if desired.

WHAT DO I NEED TO PAY?
You need to cover your own airfare to Darwin, accommodation, transport and food while in Darwin. There is no fee to be involved in the fieldwork.

WHAT ABOUT INSURANCE?
Wildlife Management International accepts no liability whatsoever for any volunteers. We recommend medical and travel insurance.

IS THE WORK DANGEROUS?
Working with wildlife is never risk-free, but if simple instructions are followed, common sense is used, and people work as a team then the work is not considered dangerous. Last year none of our volunteers or staff received any injuries caused by crocodiles, despite capturing 640 crocodiles from one to nine feet long.

INTERESTED?
For more detailed information, contact Adam Britton. Images from the 2001 work are available.


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