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Published: Tuesday December 3, 2013 MYT 12:45:00 PM
Updated: Tuesday December 3, 2013 MYT 12:47:44 PM

Aussie researchers launch global croc attack file

SYDNEY: Australian researchers on Tuesday launched the world's first crocodile attack database, hoping to establish whether conservation of the reptiles had "come back to bite itself".

CrocBITE, a new global database of human-crocodile interactions, will be managed by researchers at Australia's Charles Darwin University (CDU), aiming to explore whether protection had increased attacks.

Since laws were passed in Australia's tropical Northern Territory in 1971 protecting crocodiles, CDU researcher Adam Britton said species numbers had boomed, leading to greater interactions with humans, with "similar stories from around the world". 

"Crocodile conservation has come back to bite itself," said Britton.

"Human-crocodile conflict is increasing each year as crocodile populations recover from decades of overhunting, and human populations continue to grow and encroach upon crocodile habitat."

The aim of CrocBITE would not be to "vilify" the predatory reptiles but "better analyse crocodile and human conflict".

"The project will be an ongoing attempt to compile all reported attacks by any crocodilian species on a human to better understand risk factors leading to such attacks," he said.

This would "ultimately help to improve human safety and, as a consequence, crocodilian conservation," added Britton.

There are already some 1,700 entries in the database, drawn from historical records and news articles, and Britton said the team was "already beginning to see patterns."

Members of the public can view the latest data and report attacks at www.crocodile-attack.info. Reports will be verified by the CDU team before being uploaded into the database.

The data - which includes the date of an attack, gender and age of victim, country, crocodile type and size - will be fed into interactive maps and there will also be species description and distribution information available on the site.

Saltwater crocodiles can grow up to seven metres (22 feet) long, weigh more than a tonne, and are a common feature of Australia's tropical north.

Their numbers have increased steadily since the introduction of protection laws, with government estimates putting the population at between 75,000-100,000.

Until now, quantifying the frequency of attacks on humans has been anecdotal.

According to CrocBITE, the most recent attack was a fatality in Zambia on November 28.

The last crocodile killing recorded in Australia, involving a 4.7-metre creature, was on August 24. -AFP


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