Monday, 20 February 2012

Diving with wild crocodiles

As prehistoric predators, crocodiles have a fearsome man-eating reputation, but little is known of their behaviour underwater in the wild. Now scientists are risking their lives to study the reptiles in their natural habitat. But can it ever be safe to dive with a crocodile?
They have been around for more than 100 million years, but much crocodile behaviour remains a mystery, as they spend around 80% of their lives underwater.
Nile crocodiles can grow up to six metres long, live up to 100 years old, and weigh up to half a tonne. Fully-grown crocs have the strongest bite of any animal, and they are indiscriminate about what they eat - wildebeest, fish or humans.
The Nile croc is a protected species in Botswana under wildlife law, and the crocodile population is slowly growing as water levels rise and more habitat becomes available.
But, as the human population also increases, crocodile attacks are on the rise. Figures show 55% of croc attacks are fatal and it is hoped that, by understanding croc behaviour, lives may be saved.
So how can we find out more about wild crocs, when it is so dangerous to get into the water with them?
Zoologist Dr Adam Britton has been studying crocodiles for nearly 18 years, and headed to Botswana's Okavango Delta to run a week-long pilot research project investigating where they hide before attacking, and how they detect prey.

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