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Using drones to capture crocodiles

Using drones to capture crocodiles

Department of Environment and Science (DES) wildlife officers in far-north Queensland have completed research to develop a new way of capturing estuarine crocodiles, using drones. What’s more, the whole capture process takes around 15 minutes.

Research carried out by DES staff in far north Queensland has led to the development of a new technique for capturing problem crocodiles which takes advantage of the animal’s instinctive predatory response to grab at anything it sees moving nearby at the water’s surface.

Using this new technique, a baited noose is suspended beneath the drone and skimmed along the surface of the water near the target crocodile. When the crocodile responds by snapping up the bait and attempting to swallow it the noose locks onto its top jaw. Once the noose is tightly in place the drone releases the rope, which remains firmly attached to the crocodile. A float attached to the other end of the rope allows wildlife officers to locate and retrieve the crocodile by boat.

Traditionally, methods to capture estuarine crocodiles have been restricted to baited traps, nooses, harpoons and stationary baited lines, and each of them have drawbacks. Nooses and harpoons can only work if used close-up to the animal and capture using baited traps and lines can take several weeks and even months.

The new drone technique can be used to capture estuarine crocodiles without having to be ‘get up close’ and can be achieved in minutes, rather than weeks, without risk of injuring the animal. During the research program inspections of the top jaws of all crocodiles captured found no abrasions or bruising of their jaws due to the noose.

This new method provides researchers and wildlife management agencies a fast, effective and humane way of capturing particularly wary and hard-to-capture crocodiles that might otherwise avoid capture.

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