Crocs can scale trees and fences
- 5 HOURS AGO FEBRUARY 14, 2014 11:21AM
A new study by a team of international researchers, including NT scientist Dr Adam Britton, has found crocodilians can climb trees. Pictured is an American alligator. Pic by Kristine Gingras Source: Supplied
DROP bears may not be real worry, but what about drop crocs?
Crocodiles can climb trees, and disturbingly, even high fences, according to a new study.
An international team of researchers, including an Australian scientist, has compiled a report on the largely unknown climbing abilities of crocodile and alligator species around the world.
The study, recently published in science journal Herpetology Notes, found climbing behaviour is common among crocodilians, which may function as a way of gaining a better vantage point for finding prey, or getting to a basking area with maximum sun exposure.
Northern Territory based researcher Dr Adam Britton, from Charles Darwin University, has witnessed some freshwater crocodiles 1.5m long climbing steep riverbanks, and even attempting to scale a 1.8m high chain-link fence.
â€œCrocodiles don‘t just sit on the bank and bask in the water, and occasionally go for a bit of a wander,‘‘ he said.
â€œThey‘re actually really quite agile creatures and they‘re a lot more agile than we think.â€
Saltwater crocodiles, which are far more dangerous than their freshwater cousins, have thankfully only exhibited climbing behaviour in their hatchling stage, becoming too heavy to shift their body weight into high places as they grow older.
Dr Britton said hatchlings of both species of Australian crocodiles were lightweight, with their relatively strong claws allowing them to climb brickwork â€” the cause of occasional crocodile farm escapes.
â€œMost crocodile farmers are aware how easy it is for crocodiles to escape from their enclosures,‘‘ he said.
â€œIf you have a small enclosure with lots of baby crocodiles, for example, and if it‘s made of brick or rough concrete, you have to put a lid on it, or an overhang on it because otherwise, those animals will be out.â€
The researchers suggested the climbing behaviour may provide the reptiles with a better way of basking, or surveying their habitat.
Dr Britton said some crocodiles he had spotted climbing trees, when they were approached by boats, they readily fell into the water as a means of escape.
Townsville based wildlife consultant â€œRangerâ€ Dan Bamblett said was familiar with climbing behaviour in crocodile hatchlings.
â€œI‘ve seen that sort behaviour in hatchlings, when they‘re kept in a pretty small enclosure, and I suppose the drive to get out is pretty high,‘‘ he said.
Mr Bamblett, who had worked in zoos in the US, said he had observed adult Cuban crocodiles climbing trees.
â€œThey climb so well into trees overhanging the waters where they live to get a good basking spot, sometimes they end up over six feet over the water‘s surface,‘‘ he said.
â€œYou could be walking along and have a crocodile at head height.â€