NOVA: How do you go about capturing a wild crocodile?
Leslie: It depends on the size. Any crocs less than about two meters
(less than seven feet) in length we catch at night from boats. This
involves tying oneself to the boat's mast. You dangle a noose while
someone with you drives the boat and uses a large spotlight. You look
for these little beady red eyes in the middle of the pitch-dark night.
Hopefully you find the croc eyes and not the hippo eyes. You sneak up on
the animal, pop the noose around its neck and then haul it up onto the
boat. The first thing you do then, of course, is tie up its mouth. Then
you get to work.
Obviously you can't do this with the large animals. We use a baited
noose trap. We dig it into the ground at the lake edge and
bait it with a big chunk of meat—buffalo or reedbuck or hippo,
whatever had been culled or had been killed on the road. In going after
the bait, the croc passes through the noose and pops a spring system.
The noose then grabs and holds the croc between its front and back legs.
NOVA: How do you weigh a half-ton croc?
Leslie: That's something we had to learn. The smaller ones are easier,
of course. You wrap the croc in a kind of stretcher affixed to a scale.
The scale is tied to a pole, which two of you simply pick up to weigh
the croc. We can do
that for animals up to about 200 kilos (440 pounds). To weigh the
five-meter (17-foot) crocs, which do weigh about half a ton, we designed
a simple tripod system. From the center of the tripod we hang a half-ton
winch. We then wrestle this five-meter monster, which is drugged of
course, onto the stretcher and tie it up. Then we just heave it up using
the winch. Sometimes it takes up to five or six goes to actually get it
right, but it does work.
NOVA: How do you stomach pump a croc?
Leslie: With the younger animals—anything, again, about two meters
(less than seven feet) in length—we insert a piece of thick tubing
through the esophagus straight down into the stomach. The croc has had a
muscle relaxant at this stage, so it's pretty easy to handle. We fill
its stomach with water, then pick the animal up and make it regurgitate
whatever's in its stomach.
For the big guys, we devised a scooping method. We took a piece of
thick, eight-millimeter fencing wire and attached a little scoop on the
end of it. We cover that with a lot of silicon or KY jelly and insert it
into the mouth and down into the stomach—very gently, because you go
through two valves and you don't want to hurt the animal. Once you're in
the stomach, you can simply scoop out the contents.
shouldn't we ask?