Scientists in South Africa’s Loskop Nature Reserve in Mpumalanga province have fitted crocodiles with satellite transmitters to see if they are keeping safe following a recent spill from a nearby coal mine into a dam where they live.
They want to see “where the animals are staying and whether they are staying out of harm’s way”, Dr Hannes Botha, a reptile scientist at the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, told the BBC’s Newsday programme.
But this is not the first time the crocodiles have been threatened: “The crocodiles have been dying over quite a long period of time,” Dr Botha said, describing “mass mortality” events in 2005 and 2006 when the dam lost most of its crocodile population.
A survey in 2011 counted three animals in the whole dam – the population had been practically “wiped out”, Dr Botha said.
The animals have not been removed from the dam, because doing so would be a big “undertaking” and they were only reintroduced to the area last year, before the spill.
The crocodiles are a huge tourist attraction to the area, Dr Botha said, because they are “impressive” animals and “top predators”.