We just LOVE life on the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve and look forward to the croc research trip ever year – but crocs aren’t the only things being researched on the reserve, and they also aren’t the only animal we get to meet. Week one was full action for us. We set 19 traps spanning across 40km of the Wenlock River and have already captured four beautiful crocodiles, including Nigel who measured in at 8 feet 5 inches, Waldo the Wise who was fitted with a satellite tracking device, Hunter who measured in at 10 feet 2 inches, and the recapture of Dick Smith who has lost his front right leg and grown a foot larger than our last encounter three years ago. The Eskitis Institute have joined us again and are continuing their search for rare plants to aid in the development of a potential cure for Parkinson’s Disease, and of course we continue to be mesmerised by the incredible animals and stunning landscapes that surround us. What a week!
Our second week on the croc trip has seen us capture five crocs, including four recaptures and one new croc, Peita K, to add to the program. Stanley, Clive, Wesley and Ryan were the four recaptures, and how exciting it was to see them again! Ryan is actually the third biggest croc we've caught in the Wenlock River, and the second biggest crocodile that we're currently studying – we love getting up close with these modern-day dinosaurs; an animal so perfect they haven’t had to change for the last 65 million years! Bindi and Chandler also arrived on the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve this week after a long road trip North in Steve’s old ute, and it marked a truly special occasion for Chandler as he got to jump his first croc! It’s also been a huge week for Robert who has just been named runner up in the 2016 Australian Geographic Junior Nature Photographer of the Year competition with a photo of a crocodile’s teeth that he took on last year’s croc trip—woohoo! What a week it’s been!
Well, would you believe it? Big Dunc has come back for a third time! Big Dunc is the biggest croc we are currently studying in the Wenlock and by jingo, he’s HUGE! Measuring in at 15 feet, 1.5 inches, Big Dunc was first captured in 2010, and then again on last year’s trip. In fact, when we pulled him out of his trap this week, he still had his old GPS tracker fitted – this is the first time this has happened in the history of our research! So what does that mean for the program? We have access to extra data stored on this device that doesn't usually get transmitted via satellite—it will be fascinating to analyse! Week three on the croc trip also saw us meet a new face; that of Madison the croc! Madison is a beautiful female croc named after the granddaughter of a generous couple who donated to our crocodile conservation work. We measured Madison at 8 feet, 11inches in length; she was fitted with an acoustic tag so we can record data and study her life for the next decade. Madison's return to the river was exciting - with the ropes off, she decided to make a new path, turning around and exiting back through her trap. Our team leader Toby was right there behind the barricade, and promptly rolled out of the way. Definitely a memorable capture and release!
What an incredible month it’s been! 31 days on the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve capturing and studying one of the most perfect predators on planet earth – the amazing saltwater crocodile. We feel truly blessed to be able to contribute to this vital conservation work and learn more about these modern-day dinosaurs. As we pack up and prepare for the journey back home to Australia Zoo, we reflect on the past month, taking in the picturesque views surrounding us and the gorgeous wildlife living amongst it all. The 2016 croc trip has truly been one to remember. We captured a total of 23 crocodiles, including 12 recaptures and 11 new crocs to add to the longest running, most comprehensive research project with crocodiles. We’ll be tracking these crocs for the next 7-10 years and the findings will be critical to managing the co-existence of crocodiles and people. Crikey! What a trip!