Adam Britton - Ok, my primary work here is the crocodile management program for the NT, in conjunction with the Northern Territory government's Parks and Wildlife Services. I work for an independent company who does all the croc research, in other words.
Adam Britton - We've been monitoring the croc populations since 1971 (before my time!) and have an incredible dataset to hand on the recovery of the population after hunting, which was banned in 1971 here
Adam Britton - I'm also involved in other aspects of the management programme, such as egg collecting for the sustainable use initiative, plus surveys by spotlight and helicopter.
Adam Britton - And I tend to do a hundred other things too, related to education and research = major project of my own, for example, is looking at vocalisations. Do a lot of work with film crews too.
Adam Britton - At the moment, it's the nesting season here - freshwater crocs are hatching, and saltwater crocs are nesting.
Adam Britton - Convincing the NT government that crocs are a major priority here is a major concern
Adam Britton - There's a strange relationship between crocs and people here - many would like to see them wiped out for good, as they're viewed as dangerous pests, but others do respect them and their place in the environment - and acknowledge how important they are for the region
jeffb - Adam Id like to ask the first question.... how successful has the hunting ban been in australia?
Adam Britton - At first, there was additional poaching because Queensland didn't enact a ban until 1974, so there was illegal trafficking going on between states. More recently, however, there is very little evidence of poaching - that which does occur is low-level, and not a problem for the crocs
Adam Britton - A bit of background - in 1971 there were estimated to be around 3000 crocs. Now, there are around 70,000 to 80,000 in this state alone.
Adam Britton - Amazing recovery.
Adam Britton - So, the problem has shifted from one of preservation to one of "ok, guys, we know you hate the crocs, but here are the reasons we need to keep them around"
jeffb - I think we are seeing parallels w/the status of the alligator here in the US
Adam Britton - In many ways, yes. Croc conservation programmes worldwide for certain species at least have been successful for similar reasons
joherp - Here the gators have made a comeback, but there is a lot of habitat disruption, causing smaller sizes Has there been a similar problem in Australia?
Adam Britton - Initially, feral buffalo were a serious problem, destroying nesting areas. Most of these have now been eradicated, though. More recent problems are alien plant species such as Mimosa which is clogging water areas and removing nesting species
joherp - It is painful to see 20 stunted gators in a ditch.
Adam Britton - Alien plants are causing problems for Nile crocs, too, creating too much shade in nesting areas
Adam Britton - At present, though, population pressures here are fairly low,but on the rise. It will be more of a problem in the future
beauL - what is the largest recorded croc from australia?i will come up with a better question next time, sorry!
Adam Britton - np :) The largest ever recorded and verified was 23 feet long, caught in the Roper river in 1973
Adam Britton - There are many anecdotal stories of 27 / 28 and even 33 ft crocs
Adam Britton - In most cases, though, these are exaggerations.
Adam Britton - 19 ft is about the max for most
Can - when an alligator is poached , what do they use it for? clothes?
Adam Britton - The skins are the most valuable part of a saltwater croc, although the meat is also used
Adam Britton - There is a big push for the promotion of *legal* croc skins right now, which is taking the market from poached skins - which are usually inferior quality
Adam Britton - Most crocs killed illegally these days, though, are just shot out of angst, or drowned in barramundi fishing nets
docH - What species of monitors do you see in crocodile habitat?
Adam Britton - Most of the species you see around here (well, that I've seen) around crocs are V. mertensii (water goanna) or V. gouldii
Adam Britton - There are plenty more within their range, though, but I'm not familiar with that many species
Adam Britton - gould's are major predators of nests of salties and freshies
Fata - I am wondering if Steve Irwin,host of the show "crocodile hunter" (big hit here in US) is in your opinion is having any impact in his homeland as far as educating the natives about crocs?Or does that show even air over there?
Adam Britton - He's quite popular down south, where there are no crocs, but frankly he's very unpopular up here where people have to live with the crocs. His show was banned in the N.T. after complaints, in fact.
Adam Britton - (so they tell me)
Fata - why?
Phrynosoma - i love that show
Adam Britton - People feel he presents an inaccurate impression of crocs up here, and his antics are a little irresponsible
JChlebowy - I know its out off topic, but hows the situation of the diamond pythons at your end, are they rare in the wild?
Adam Britton - I really don't know, Juergen. There is a research program on Diamond's at the NT Uni recently, and they've recently switched to looking at carpets. I haven't seen their results, though.
Mattmorelia - Is there a regulated "croc farming" industry in the NT similar to those in the US?
Adam Britton - Yes, a very well established one
Mattmorelia - Do you feel it helps their situation?
Adam Britton - Here, eggs are harvested from the wild and hatched in captivity, then sold to the crocodile farms. The landowner gets a slice of teh profits. The crocs are then raised and slaughtered at 3 yrs for skin and meat.
Adam Britton - It certainly has done - since 1985, there has been no detectable slow down in population growth and several areas have been saved from being converted to pasture because of their ability to "produce" crocodile eggs
Mattmorelia - good deal then (maybe)
Adam Britton - Harvesting of wild animals is always controversial, but in the case of crocs it has been essential to their conservation in several countries
phrynosoma - Do you know Steve Irwin?
Adam Britton - Not personally
Adam Britton - But he's hard to ignore ;)
phrynosoma - whys that
Adam Britton - He has quite a reputation, but it's interesting that people either love him or hate him - there's no middle ground. Interestingly, the people who dislike him are those who live around crocs, and those who like him tend not to have any contact with them. Just my observation.
Adam Britton - If he gets ppl interested in croc conservation, then he's doing a good job
phrynosoma - i still like him even if he is crazy or hated by the northern territory
Adam Britton - phryno: not everyone hates him, but then not everyone hates crocodiles here either
jeffb - ok I have a question Adam.... how many Crocs are harvested annually?
Adam Britton - Only the eggs are harvested, jeff - it depends on teh demand in any year. Two years ago, 15,000 eggs were harvested, this year with the Asian economy crisis there are perhaps on 3 to 4000
Adam Britton - There was a trial harvest of adult crocs last year, but demand is low - quality of skins is much less in wild animals (which is why poaching damaged by legal trade in skins)
joherp - Adam, how large do the farm crocs get in 3 years?
Adam Britton - About 1.5 to 2 metres in total length
Adam Britton - That's about 4.5 to 6.5 feet
beauL - how do u feel about the croc farming/harvesting ?
Adam Britton - Personally, I've been fascinated by crocs since I was 6, so the idea of killing them took a lot of getting used to. However, I acknowledge the value that farming can have for their conservation when it's set up and managed properly (which it isn't always) and so in these cases I support it. Crocs are hard animals to win friends, so extreme measures are better than witnessing their decline if you ask me.
Adam Britton - I don't kill crocs myself, by the way
Adam Britton - I'm a researcher, not a farmer
Adam Britton - If in the future there is a better way, I will support that too
Adam Britton - Economics and fashion dictate croc conservation in some respects - while this can be utilised, it's a bit unsettling
Can - do you all have alligators ? What's a caiman?
Adam Britton - Here, we have two species: the saltwater crocodile (c. porosus) and the freshwater crocodile (c. johnstoni). They're both true crocodiles. Several rivers here are called "Alligator", because they were orignally thought of as gators. Alligators are found in the US and China, and caimans are found in Central and South America
Adam Britton - Many old hunting shots of the victor standing on his prize proclaim the animal to be a "gator"
croc1 - Adam: do you know anything about vit d3 metabolism in crocs? Specifically, do crocs acquire vit d3 through diet or through UVB catalyzed synthesis?
Adam Britton - Crocs are carnivores, so they acquire D3 through their diet. Most croc farms actually raise crocs in total darkness. In the longterm, this may be detrimental, but in the shortterm before slaughter it makes little difference. Crocs do benefit from UVA and UVB light, though.
croc1 - But note that not all carnivores acquire vit d3 through diet.....
Adam Britton - to be honest, there hasn't been much work done on D3 systhesis in crocs (that I can think of anyway)
crocfreak - Hi Adam, have you noticed any additional physical differences between 'farm raised' and 'wild' crocs?
Adam Britton - Yes, farm raised animals grow a lot faster, and mature a lot faster (sexually mature males at 6 yrs, instead of 15 to 20 in the wild). However, the skin tends to be thinner in captivity, and their tails tend not to be as muscular as they swim around less. Jaw size also varies, as has been shown in gators, because of a reduction in biting power required
Adam Britton - Less biting power = less stress on the jaw bones = less reinforcement
Adam Britton - You don't need a strong bite to chew on farm processed foods
crocfreak - so that is believed to be due to the biting then...great, thanks
Desiree - out of all the research and expeirences that you have been thru with crocs...
Desiree - what do you find the most fascinating about these creatures?
Adam Britton - What, the research experiences?
Desiree - research + personal...
Adam Britton - Hard to say - it's all fascinating if you ask me, but then I'm biased. :) Perhaps the craziest thing I've done is the temperature logger experiment that I'm doing right now on salties. In order to retrieve the loggers, I found stomach scoops too damaging, and very poor at retrieving stomach contents (including my recording device), so I now stick my hand down their throat and grab the logger from the stomach. It creates quite a crowd!
Adam Britton - The croc, of course, is sedated
Adam Britton - I'm finding a lot of very interseting things out about their vocalisations, though - they're a lot more vocal, with a lot more meaning to these sounds, than people previously thought
Adam Britton - Crocs are just really quite advanced in many respects, even though they were previously regarded as being :out of date"
docH - How much maternal care do baby salties get?
Adam Britton - Baby salties get several months of maternal care - up to 6 months. THe female stays around the nest at all times, digs them out when they begin to hatch, carries them to teh water and opens unhatched eggs, and follows teh creche.
Adam Britton - Freshies, on the other hand, tend to give it all up as a bad job after a month or two
Adam Britton - This is curious, as salties grow much faster than freshies, and are far more capable of defending themselves at an earlier age
DougL - what is the significance of the freshies snouts being long and slinder and how underrated, if at all, are the temperments of freshies and overratted are the salties? Hope none of this was asked for i jumped in after this began
Adam Britton - Longer snouts in crocs tends to occur in those species which take more fish = as long, slender snouts cause less drag when moved fast through water. They are also much weaker than the broad snouts of gators and caimans, which can eat molluscs which freshies for example would not touch.
Adam Britton - Temperaments: well, freshies are probably more bold than salties when they're cornered, but they don
Adam Britton - don't have much of a bite to back up their posturing! Freshies are more likely to flee after posing for a bit.
DougL - makes sense, thanks
Fata - 1)do you ever get a chance to have "hands on" experience with the big crocs(not sedated)? and2) do you find that people come around pretty easily to the idea of the croc being beneficial and needed in the ecosystem during your education seminars or whatever...I have always found that with educating people about the various herps I have knowledge of,the majority seem less inhibited about being around them and learn fairly quickly to fear them less
Adam Britton - Saltie temperament varies, but they're not as bad as they're made out to be. You wont be rushed by thousands of slavering crocs when you enter the water in a boat, for example. Yet, they can be incredibly dangerous when they get bigger
Adam Britton - 1) Yes, I get to handle the crocs quite a lot, although for bigger animals over 1.5 metres you're mad unless you have several people to assist. Also, we tend to sedate big crocs if we have to handle them extensively - sedation is *far* better for the animal, and the handler, and big crocs have died if they get too stressed. I've done some swimming / filming with unsedated salties (jaws tied) and you have to be careful!
Adam Britton - 2) What turns most people over to crocs, I've found during talks, is showing them the variety of behaviour they're capable of. Hatchling crocs win people over, and so does the correct perspective on the real threat posd by adults. Also, showing other species such as Paleosuchus which live in burrows by day and walk around land at night (and look cute) really get them curiuos
Adam Britton - One day, I'll convince a documentary maker to concentrate on the other croc species - all people see on the TV are Nile crocs ripping off wildebeest heads
jeffb - well adam its 10:00pm up here
jeffb - I want to thank you for being our guest tonight
Adam Britton - Thanks for inviting me, and I hope you found it interesting
Adam Britton - Even if I don't know anything about Oz snakes ;)
jeffb - and Id like to invite you back in the future
Adam Britton - Sure, I'd really like that