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Wrestling with Crocs (continued)

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.

Photo of noose trap 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?

Photo of a croc on a scale 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?

Photo of croc getting it's stomach pumped 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?

Continue: Determining the sex of a crocodile.

Outlasting the Dinosaurs | Who's Who of Crocodilians
Wrestling with Crocs | The Clickable Croc | Teacher's Guide | Resources | Transcript

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