02 15/02/2012

Tagging Crocs in Borneo

Chester Zoo is acting for wildlife to tackle human-crocodile conflict in Borneo.

Putting a satellite tracking device on a crocodile is not the easiest job in the world, but staff at the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) in Sabah, Borneo have perfected the technique.

Image copyright RD Borneo 2010

A PhD project being carried out at DGFC is trying to understand more about the increased conflicts between humans and crocodiles, using satellite tracking.

Saltwater crocodiles are found in rivers throughout Sabah. Previously hunted to a vulnerable status, a ban on hunting in the 1970s has meant that the population of crocodiles has been on the increase.

Habitat changes, such as deforestation and increase in oil palm plantations, are thought to have reduced the amount of prey available for the expanding crocodile population.

Copyright - DGFC

Image copyright DGFC/SWD

When food is scarce, crocodiles have taken domestic animals, children and even adults from the local villages as food. Attacks on humans have increased more near to plantations than in forested areas, causing concern for the locals. Little is known about the movements and biology of these crocodiles, but as Chester Zoo acts for wildlife to support the project, we hope this will soon change.

The Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit and DGFC are catching male crocodiles and tagging them with satellite devices. One of the rivers they are working at is the Kinabatangan where another of our conservation projects - our Realm of the Red Ape Programme - is based.

So far, two male crocodiles have been tagged; the most recent named ‘Lais,’ who was found to be 3.6 metres long, though this species can grow to an impressive 6meters! The project will increase the level of understanding of the causes of conflict and help to create awareness of the issue amongst local people.

The DGFC staff placed cameras into the traps, which caught these fantastic pictures of ‘Lais’ before he was released with a satellite tag.

Watch out for more updates from the project which we’ll share with you on Facebook via our Act for Wildlife page and our website, www.actforwildlife.org.uk.