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Zoo team heads into croc territory

Chandler Powell, Bindi Irwin and team member Luke with Madison the Crocodile.
Chandler Powell, Bindi Irwin and team member Luke with Madison the Crocodile. Ben Beaden/Australia Zoo

THE 2016 crocodile research trip has come to a close and the crew are celebrating another successful year on the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve, a pristine 335,000 acre conservation property on Queensland's Cape York Peninsula.

The Irwin family, Australia Zoo, University of Queensland scientists and Wildlife Research Expedition team arrived on the reserve at the beginning of August, setting up 19 traps spanning across 40km of the Wenlock River in preparation for the longest running, most comprehensive research project with crocodiles.

Using Steve Irwin's capture and study techniques, which remain the world's best to this day, the expert team captured a total of 23 saltwater crocodiles, measuring and recording the essential scientific data before releasing them back into their natural habitat.

Eleven new crocodiles were added to our research program this year and to date they're tracking a total of 150 estuarine crocodiles in the Wenlock River, each providing critical data and contributing to the knowledge base of these incredible apex predators.

The remaining 12 were recaptures, which are vitally important in helping ascertain diet, examine environmental drivers for movement and behavioural patterns of crocodiles with a focus on temperature and deploy satellite-dive transmitters to look at long-scale movements and diving behaviour.

One such recapture from this year's trip was Big Dunc, the biggest crocodile currently beingstudied.

Big Dunc was first captured in 2010 and then again last year and he certainly lives up to his name, measuring in at over 4.5 metres.

Other recaptures have displayed missing limbs and other injuries due to territorial disputes, which is not uncommon amongst full-grown male crocodiles.

Bindi Irwin has been a valuable team member on the annual croc research trip every year; starting out as her dad's assistant, moving up the ranks to help the scientific team record data and these days, being a part of the jump team while training her boyfriend, Chandler Powell (who joined the team on this year's trip), to do the same.

"I'm so incredibly proud to be carrying on dad's conservation work, and crocodiles are at the heart of it all,” Bindi said.

"There are many questions that remain unanswered, but each year we learn more about how we can successfully manage our wild crocodile populations, and most importantly, keep people safe.”

Robert Irwin also plays an important role on the croc trip, helping set up traps and capturing the beautiful array of fauna and flora found on the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve through the lens of his camera.

Robert was recently named runner-up in the 2016 Australian Geographic Junior Nature Photographer of the Year competition for his photo "Toothy Grin”, which was taken on last year's croc trip and features a large male saltwater crocodile resting on the banks of the reserve.

The annual croc research trip is crucial in determining new information about these incredible apex predators to aid in the conservation of both the species and their habitat.

For more information on Australia Zoo's crocodile conservation, or to donate or become a sponsor for next year's trip, visit: http://www.australiazoo.com.au/conservation/projects/crocodiles/

Topics:  australia zoo bindi irwin


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