August 23, 2005

Satellite tracks “Sputnik,” the croc

CANBERRA (Reuters) - A saltwater crocodile named Sputnik is
being tracked by satellite in the remote heart of Australia in
a bid to learn more about the deadly creatures.

Researchers from New Zealand's Massey University attached a
transmitter to the back of the 4.2m (14 feet) male crocodile,
which was caught in the Adelaide River about 100 km (62 miles)
southeast of the tropical city of Darwin in Australia's outback
Northern Territory.

They plan to track Sputnik for a year to learn more about
the movements of the Crocodylus porosus. Sputnik's journey can
also be watched on

"The crocodile has proven difficult to study using
conventional methods such as radio telemetry or direct viewing,
due to the aggressiveness of the species and the hostile
environments in which they live," the Web site said.

Since crocodiles were declared a protected species in 1971
when their numbers fell to about 5,000, the Northern
Territory's population has exploded to around 70,000 animals in
the wild with another 18,000 in six crocodiles farms.

About a dozen people have been killed in crocodile attacks
in Australia in the past 20 years.