Crocodile migrants: are Aussie crocs travelling to Timor-Leste?

By AG STAFF 5 March 2019
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Scientists have set out for East Timor to test whether saltwater crocodiles from northern Australia are behind the island’s booming crocodile population.

A TEAM OF researchers from Charles Darwin University have travelled to Timor-Leste (East Timor) in search of crocodiles they believe may have swum all the way from Australia top end.

Dangerous encounters with saltwater crocodiles have increased significantly over the last decade in East Timor due to an increasing population.

Professor Sam Banks from Charles Darwin University suspects that this may be because Australian saltwater crocodiles are travelling from the Northern territory to the small island nation.

“We’ve had such a successful crocodile conservation and management program, that we are now effectively pumping out crocodile migrants that are going and settling in countries around Australia,” Sam told ABC News.

And it’s not as far-fetched as it may seem. According to Sam, there have been records of people working in the middle of the Timor Sea seeing crocodiles swimming past.

The scientific expedition to East Timor aims to take DNA samples from crocodiles and observe whether they match the DNA samples from crocodiles in northern Australia.

The scientists say that it will be a few months before they have results, adding that, if the theory turns out to be true, experts will have to start thinking about a regional strategy for managing crocodiles.

“We like to think that animals have their borders stopping where our borders stop.

“But crocodiles don’t necessarily behave the way we want them to, so this sort of information can tell us how their populations work.”