Monday, May 13, 2013

What really killed Lolong?


Alas poor Lolong, we hardly knew ye. The largest living crocodile that any of us had ever seen is gone, a mere 18 months after he was caught. It's now been a little while since he died, the initial disappointment has passed, teeth have been gnashed and fingers have been pointed. Still, I'm repeatedly asked about what caused his death. We have the official necropsy results of course, although many of you won't have had the chance to see those. So just what killed the largest crocodile in captivity and could anything have been done to prevent it?

Seeing Lolong was one of those "once in a lifetime" events. He was a glimpse into the past, a time that's probably lost forever when truly massive reptiles lurked in the river. For many, Lolong's size was fearsome yet he was remarkably gentle while he was in captivity. Worryingly so, in fact. Of course, Lolong was accused of having killed and eaten at least two people, leading to his "most wanted" status in the first place. Nobody ever proved that Lolong was responsible for those deaths, although it's certainly quite possible and a reasonable conclusion. Despite this, his impact on the Philippines can be measured by their national response to his death, the mourning for an individual whose species is generally despised so much it is compared unfavourably to the nation's politicians. His iconic status did much to earn crocodiles (of the non-political kind) some respect.


I mentioned above that Lolong seemed remarkably gentle. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the effects of capturing large crocodiles from the wild. It's a phenomenon called "capture myopathy"; the shock of being caught, poked and prodded, and introduced to a completely new and alien environment is a stressful experience, particularly for an animal as large as Lolong who has been master of his domain for decades. It might seem unusual to think of crocodiles as being susceptible to stress, but they're just like any other vertebrate in that respect and something that anyone who maintains captive crocodiles should be aware of.

Yet despite this, crocodiles can adapt remarkably well to captivity. Think about it. In the wild you need to devote all your time and effort to survival, the fine balance between saving energy and finding food, knowing where the best shelter is, where the best breeding areas are, and defending those resources from other crocodiles. In captivity, it's all presented to you on a platter, often without annoying competitors trying to muscle in. The need to range widely in search of food, shelter, mates and virtually anything else is gone, instead the crocodile can stay in the one place where all its needs are met. Believe it or not, this does sometimes happen in the wild; those rare situations where there's plenty of food and shelter within a very restricted area, and wild crocodiles have been found that essentially remain in the same place for years. Fence or not, there's no reason to leave nirvana. A good captive environment has to provide a similar experience, and many zoos spend millions of dollars ensuring this is the case.

Should Lolong have lived in a multi-million dollar enclosure then? I'm sure it would have helped, but when you see some of the muddy holes that wild crocodiles call home you realise that crocodiles aren't looking for aesthetics that appeal to us, they're looking for shelter and the basic necessities for survival. It may not have looked pretty, but Lolong was provided with those basic necessities. Trouble is, there were some fundamental problems that ultimately led to his demise.

Lolong's necropsy* revealed that he died from congestive heart failure compounded by fungal pneumonia, lipidosis of the liver and kidney failure. Essentially his immune system was compromised, and if there's one thing that will do this it's chronic (ie. long-term) stress. Interestingly, it didn't appear to start out this way. He began eating within a few weeks of being captured, which was remarkably quick for a such a large, wild-caught crocodile subjected to a prolonged capture and a post-capture stomach flush. Eating is always a good sign, it shows that the crocodile is comfortable enough with its new surroundings that it starts to resume normal behaviour. Crocodiles do not eat if they are highly stressed, although I'm referring here to acute (or short-term) stress. Some rare crocodiles have been known to literally starve themselves to death after capture, they never adapt to captivity or recover from the shock of being caught. If you've ever asked yourself "I wonder how scientists know that adult crocodiles can last for nearly two years without food?"... well, now you know.

Of course getting a crocodile to eat isn't necessarily cause to relax, but all the signs pointed to Lolong settling down into his new surroundings and behaving normally. So what happened? The answer seems clear in retrospect, and concerns were indeed raised about this practice well in advance. I'm talking about the regular draining of water from Lolong's enclosure, apparently on a daily basis. This was started, so I was told, to ensure that Lolong always had clean water, but it served another purpose: it ensured that the hundreds of visitors who travelled from around the Philippines (and indeed from around the world) could get a clear view of Lolong sitting in shallow water. It would be disappointing to visit the world-famous Lolong and find that he spent nearly all of his time hiding underwater. Indeed, have you ever seen a photograph or YouTube video of Lolong when he wasn't fully exposed? Unfortunately, pulling back the curtain on anyone's quiet time can be stressful. The water was his only shelter, for those times when he wanted to be left alone. I hoped that Lolong would eventually get used to this; crocodiles are pretty good at adapting to routines even if they're less than pleasant, and the time he was exposed seemed to be relatively brief. Perhaps he could have adapted to this eventually, had he been given more time to adapt to his new home first. Sadly this was not to be. Another unavoidable consequence of Lolong sitting in shallow water for an hour or two every day was made apparent during his necropsy, where abrasion of the skin on his head, teeth, claws, pectoral and pelvic areas, and his toes all show the effect of a large, heavy crocodile forced to sit and move on unyielding, rough concrete. Internally many organs showed signs of bruising where Lolong's one tonne mass inflicted its toll on a body that was never intended to lie on a hard surface repeatedly. The final straw for Lolong may have been Typhoon Pablo which hit the Philippines shortly before Lolong's death, causing temperatures to drop and his immune system to take another hit.

These problems suggest, as some news articles have claimed, a callousness and disregard towards Lolong's well-being. I don't agree, and I think it's unfair. Anyone who actually met his caretakers would have realised he was well-loved. You might say they adored him. Not just because he put their town of Bunawan on the map, but because they were all clearly in awe of him. Clearly there were also financial incentives to keep Lolong alive; he was popular, brought much money into the community, and generated a lot of national and international attention. You don't kill the golden goose, so why would his caretakers wish to be careless? I put it down to inexperience, particularly towards the needs of large crocodiles in captivity. Perhaps those of us who advised them to make changes didn't state our case strongly enough, or encourage improvements to be made quickly enough. Crocodiles can easily lead their caretakers into a false sense of security, because it takes months for problems to become apparent on the surface. I saw Lolong two months after he'd been in captivity, after he appeared to be adapting well by eating and behaving normally. Routines such as draining the pool had been established (although I only learned of this later) and his caretakers perhaps didn't see any pressing reason to change this, causing subsequent concerns to be overlooked? Even then I hoped that Lolong would adapt to this routine, in the same way that captive crocodiles in zoos adapt to the stress of visitors constantly walking past their enclosure; they quickly learn that it's not a threat to worry about, and stress levels drop. The desire by his caretakers to keep the water clean was also admirable, because we're taught that dirty water equals disease, but crocodiles actually prefer murky water - it's a much better hiding place than clear water. Draining the water also drained whatever heat was in that water, and while the replacement water may have been at a similar temperature, it's another question mark over the need for this routine. Ultimately this was all too much for Lolong to deal with so soon after having been captured from the wild, all he'd known for over half a century.

Perhaps it was love that killed Lolong? A desire to keep his water clean and clear, and to show him off like proud parents ended up being too stressful for him so early in his captive life, before he'd had chance to really feel at home. I've read much criticism that his enclosure was too small and contributed to his death, but that's a red herring. Lolong's enclosure was actually relatively large compared to those provided to many other captive crocodiles in zoos, he had plenty of room to move around in the water and on land, and even though the pool could have been deeper it was really the constant draining that caused major problems. It's interesting that Cassius, the massive crocodile to whom the record for "world's largest" has now reverted, has been kept in a much smaller enclosure for nearly three decades now. He's doing just fine.

Lolong's death has inevitably raised questions about whether he should have been captured in the first place, and indeed whether any crocodiles should ever be kept in captivity. Animal rights issues aside, it seems many have forgotten the reason that Lolong was captured in the first place. He was a wanted crocodile; poison baits had been set out by the local community to kill him, and more direct methods would have been used if the opportunity arose. Few people will tolerate a killer crocodile in their midst, and why should they? Crocodiles that attack people develop a dangerous knowledge that humans can be easy prey, and it is well known that they will return to an area again in the future to look for more. This is a real fear for people who live alongside crocodiles, and no matter how much you love crocodiles it makes sense to remove such antagonistic individuals to better protect the remaining wild population, particularly in a country with little love for crocodiles in the first place. So what do you do when the wild population is so rare? It's a no-win situation. It would have been ideal to leave Lolong in the wild, but does such specious thinking have a place in our overcrowded world? Conflict between humans and wildlife can have major repercussions for conservation (not to mention human safety, which any level-headed human regards as being of prime importance). Yet at the same time we can't simply remove all wild animals simply because it makes us feel better, or safer. There has to be a compromise, and unfortunately for Lolong he was that compromise at that particular time and place. Perhaps his death can be a lesson for us.

Let us instead celebrate Lolong, and what he was able to achieve in his short time in captivity. It's testament to his ability to inspire people that the same animal who was once hunted for perhaps killing a nine year old girl and a fisherman caused a town to go into mourning when he died. Lolong, more than any crocodile before him in the Philippines, did what years of education by humans were struggling to do - change people's perceptions on a large scale about crocodiles. He was a true ambassador for crocodiles, and while some may see his enforced captivity as a bad thing, nobody can deny his unanticipated achievements for crocodile conservation in a country that has traditionally had a great mistrust of them. The government issued a resolution pledging to improve conservation for crocodiles throughout the Philippines, of benefit primarily to the endemic and critically endangered Philippine crocodile. The irony here is that the inoffensive Philippine crocodile has always suffered because of its association with the more aggressive and dangerous saltwater crocodile, but finally that association proved to be an asset through Lolong. So let's make sure it counts by not forgetting him.
(c) National Geographic
As a final note, now that Lolong has died the Guinness World Record for the longest crocodile in captivity reverts back to the impressive Cassius, a nearly 5.5 m (18 ft) saltwater crocodile living on Green Island in Queensland, Australia. Make sure you pay him a visit while you can. Yet Lolong remains, in spite of his death, the largest crocodile that has ever been accurately measured. I wonder if there's a record for that...?

*A necropsy is an examination of a body after death to determine the cause of said death. It's interchangeable with autopsy but necropsy is typically used when dealing with animal carcasses. It's one of those cool words that gets its brief moment in the limelight when something eventful like this happens.

25 comments:

axl said...

Excellent write up. I still maintain that his environment was terrible, given his largest size, ever known for a live wild crocodile. How could an animal, having traveled thousands of kilometers its entire life be reduced to a small, tragic kids pool and survive. It was a matter of time.
His weight gave in. As much as his captors loved him, they have had past experiences with giant crocs and could have easily accommodated him in an enclosure where he would be able to swim - nothing multi million, rather a large pool, with the capacity to have him bask, float and what have you. For all those that believed 20 footers still existed, this was a testament to years of research, hopes and sheer dedication yet I don't think we will ever see another live giant in captivity again, although I most certainly believe some giants are out there in those areas without a shred of doubt.

axl said...

Quick question.

What have been your experiences with giant crocodiles in NT? Would you suspect that a couple of exceptional specimens live there judging from slides, estimation etc? The Top End is vast and could hold a secret or two or not. Cheers

Vancatu said...

Very informative and a solid theory. I also love that last picture which is a prefect represenation of his size. What a magnificant animal, a true dragon. His death is a loss to nature and science and he will be greatly missed.

One remark though about your statement that 'he was a glimpse into the past, a time that's probably lost forever when truly massive reptiles lurked in the river.'

I was wondering whether you were referring to the Dinosaur era or to monster size crocs such as Lolong, because I think that Lolong is clear evidence that they still exist.

Adam Britton said...

@axl Check out a wide range of enclosures provided to really large crocodiles, you'll be surprised how small most of them are. Lolong's was pretty average by that measure. It was what they did with what they had which was the problem. Recent tissue findings, though, also found high levels of mercury in Lolong's tissues, suggesting bioaccumulation from Agusan Marsh. While this would not have killed him, it would very likely have impaired his immune system and made his death more likely in captivity.

@axl re: large crocs in the NT, possibly there are, although 20+ footers are unlikely to have survived the hunting period, and recovered crocs since protection while old enough to reach those sizes stemmed, don't forget, from a very much reduced genetic base; Rom's suggestion that large genes may have been eliminated from such populations might not be the whole story, but it would reduce the likelihood further. I believe there are still 18'+ crocs out there, but they are very rare.

@vancatu I was referring to long-extinct, enormous crocs ancestors that roamed the rivers, something difficult to imagine these days, although getting up close with Lolong was the closest anyone would likely get to that. I don't think it's accurate to say that 20' crocs are lost forever, although given their exceptional rarity losing Lolong isn't helping.

Vancatu said...

I believe that most of the giants are to be found in New Guinea, a place that has plenty remote areas and dense jungles. Even though Saltwater crocodiles were hunted down extensively in Northern Australia, India and other parts of Southeast Asia, I think they were relatively left unscathed on the island of New Guinea -- correct me if I'm wrong.

Also, in Australia they've made an astonishing comeback in the last thirty years and are now numbering between 150 and 300 thousand. So based on these stats alone I would be suprised if there aren't a few 20 footers roaming around today. Even after the hunting period a couple 20 footers were still recorded, one of whom that was measured by rangers and apparantly recognised by the scientific community. In his PBS documentary Rom was able to get a glimpse of what seemed to be a very large specimen in the Bullo river who a ranger estimated to be over 20 feet in lenght.

Also, Dr Britton, I thought that you did not really believe in the giant gene theory, or did you gain some new insight that made you change your mind?

axl said...

Adam,

Thank for the info. I have seen many images of small enclosures holding large crocodiles and guess the whole debate on the death ends here. Oz is definitely on my travel list next year and the NT is the first destination. Steaks, beer and croc watching.

On a separate note, I had mailed film-maker Mark Deeble of 'The Tides of Kirawira' fame and inquired about the Gumeti crocs. Got some interesting facts back. Biggest ones he noted were at the 18 foot mark, lot of girth, with shorter yet heavier, massive skulls. Dead one he measured taped at 16 feet 8 inches, again as always he mentioned it boils down to the tape measure. Cool photo of him feet away from a 17 footer he came to know well in almost 10 years. A skull in a underwater croc graveyard looks to be at the 70 cm mark, possibly more.He agreed.
Images can be found on www.deeblestone.com
Mzima - Haunt of the River Horse

valerod1 said...

Hello, I just saw the discovery documentary of Lolong. I actually found it very odd that there were witnesses that the croc killed a girl (and perhaps the other fisherman) and yet the mayor of the village wanted to make Lalong a touristic example ?!? I understand the results of the utopsy.. but I suspect vengeance disguised as negligence ?

axl said...

Found this today...
http://www.rappler.com/nation/25013-captivity-killed-lolong-crocodile

Unknown said...

I wondered if you knew what happened to his remains? were they ever preserved and placed in a museum? if so where?

Adam Britton said...

@Vancatu - I hope there are more giant crocs out there as yet undiscovered. Perhaps it's best that they remain undiscovered as well! Lolong simply represents the largest crocodile measured and verified to date. The Australian crocodile population is probably closer to 150,000 not 300,000 but remember most of the really large crocs were shot out by the end of the 1960s. If crocs routinely grow to such large sizes, why aren't we seeing more of them these days? Stress could be a factor, as I speculated in the Herp. Review paper about Lolong. I think that's more likely than there being a specific genetic factor encoding for enormous size, although genetic factors are very likely to be one of the things influencing growth rates (which are required to reach large sizes).

@axl - Mark is a good repository of great croc experiences, so interesting to hear his comments. I certainly don't doubt Niles of that size. I know of a reputed 20 ft plus Nile croc whose skull sits in a museum in Botswana, and one of these days I'd like to get a measurement of it.
@valerod - There's no compelling evidence that Lolong's death was vengeance (although he did have elevated levels of mercury, bioaccumulated from Agusan Marsh presumably). There was some disagreement with the way that the Lolong situation was handled though.
@axl - Yes, that story is what prompted me to write this blog post to be honest. Although there's been a lot of criticism of the Mayor's handling of this, I think there was much more to it than the simple treatment in that rappler article.
@Unknown - his remains are being taxidermied and displayed in a museum in Davao. His internal organs and still preserved in formalin but not sure if anyone will come of that.

Vancatu said...

Dr. Britton, in all honestly I believe the theory that most of the giants being killed off in the past might be overexagerated. I believe there never were that many giants to begin with, because if there were so many giants killed during the hunting period, why aren't there so few pictures available? Again I use the PBS documentary as an example. In this docu Rom shows a few pictures of 18+ footers that were killed in those period. I believe he shows us those few pictures because those were simply the only ones he could find, and as a expert and documentary maker he would have been in a position to have access to most (if not all) of the pictures that are available in the archives. During the 1940s, 50s and 60s photo cameras were available to the general public and I'm sure that whenever a hunter killed a true giant he would have wanted to make a photo of it and show it to the world. The fact that there simply aren't many photos of true giants is proof to me that there never were that many killed, and that is because they always have been very rare and hard to find. Ofcourse, purely based on statistics, there would have been more giants in the past than there are today. And your argument on stress being a factor is solid as well as that explains why those giants are only found in remote places.

Adam Britton said...

@Vancatu - Ultimately we'll never know, all that information has been lost forever, but also consider that cameras were a lot less common during the hunting period, and most of these guys liked to work alone or with one or two assistants. Although cameras were of course available, these weren't generally the kind of people who lugged cameras around, looked after film, or accurately documented their catches - not the guys who hunted thousands or tens of thousands of animals. The ones that did give us a glimpse into that world, and there are of course plenty of stories from ex-hunters who claimed to have shot many very large crocodiles, but it's impossible to know how many of these are accurate. Lack of evidence does not prove anything, it just creates uncertainty.

Rudolph Furtado said...

Most wild animals live longer in captivity than in the wild due to veterinary medical facilities and ample food.In some animals, especially when caught in mid-life the effects of captivity can be disastrous and same was the case with "LOLONG".The stress of the capture and sudden confinement to a penned existence had definitely taken its toll on this massive wild-life monster.Crocodiles normally live to at least 70 to 80 years in the wild and the fact that "Lolong" lived for just 18 months after his capture proves that captivity killed it.A prized and rare specvimen as well as a tourist attraction has been lost.

Colin musson said...

Dr. Britton,

Do you know if there is any evidence to the sizes of Krys the 8.64m croc fr Norman river?

A skull, skin, or picture?

If not...why shoot this animal but keep nothing. No trophies or evidence of any kind.

Adam Britton said...

Hi Colin, there has not been any evidence presented to date to validate the purported size of Krys the Crocodile. There are some who have spoken with Krys Pawlowski (the shooter) and believe her story to be reasonable, but without any actual evidence there's nothing to separate it from any other big fish story. I've always found the story surrounding how the croc was apparently left on a bank while they fetched help, only to have later washed away with the tide to sound rather bizarre as well.

I'm looking forward to watching the documentary Crocodile Hunters though, the film-makers have obviously had full access to the Pawlowski archive so perhaps something will turn up.

Check it out here: http://floothecoop.com/index.html

The release date is 2014, no idea how soon though.

WASIM IS 2 KOOL 4 U said...

Hi Adam Sir,
I am a big fan of your work and really eager to know about large crocodiles and their habitats.I just want to know about the recent claim by few villagers that there are bigger crocodiles then lolong seen in Agusan Marsh.What happened to those claims and why isn't a team of experts verifying it?

Adam Britton said...

Well there's little evidence of another record-breaking crocodile in Agusan Marsh. It's mostly anecdotes from people who claim to have seen this crocodile, and there are countless such stories from around the world. The only evidence I've seen is a blurry cell phone photo of part of a large crocodile, but there's nothing in that photo to give a true sense of scale for the crocodile which looks like it might be 17 feet long, or maybe 19 feet long, or maybe 21 feet long... who knows. Just because you had a record-breaking crocodile from a particular area doesn't necessarily mean that future claims about giant crocs in your region are any more believable than stories from any other country. Perhaps conditions in Agusan Marsh are better suited to "producing" record-breaking crocodiles? If they are out there, they tend to be very canny, very wary animals that stay away from people. Lolong was one of the exceptions that got careless and started taking bait too close to people.

There is also a political and moral dimension to this. Why is there a need to find and remove the largest examples of a crocodile species? Many are strongly opposed to this, and they have a valid point - a crocodile of such size may represent a significant loss to the crocodile population in Agusan Marsh, a species that's already rare in the Philippines. It also means that such an animal has to be kept alive humanely in captivity for possibly decades. The death of Lolong certainly put that into a stark light.

Let's just say I don't think anyone is being encouraged to look for this supposed crocodile anymore.

Vancatu said...

As a monster croc enthusiast I've become quite conservative myself over the years. I've been collecting numerous pictures of large crocodiles, only a hanful of them depicting 18+ footers. When seeing that blurry image (in fact there are two if I remember correctly) I recognised the distinctions of a crocodile much larger than average. Ofcourse it is impossible to estimate its size accurately, but my gut instinct tells me that this may be a specimen of Lolong's size, perhaps even larger. This feeling is strenghtened by the fact that pretty much any villager who'd seen that crocodile believed Lolong to be too small. Why would they all say that after seeing an already enormous crocodile such as Lolong? I do believe there must be some truth in it and I don't think it can simply be refuted as fishermen's tales.

We will only know for certain if Lolong wasn't the giant who'd allegedly attacked two villagers if there will be another such attack. It may however not be a coincidence that after Lolong was captured the attacks ceased as well. But I also believe that if another giant was responsible, it may be intelligent enough to have sensed the danger and retreated to a remote location.

Adam Britton said...

Those are all valid points Vancatu, I agree. The photo does certainly show a very large crocodile based on its dimensions, shape of scutes, nuchals etc, which is why I reckon the smallest it could be would be around 17 feet. Bear in mind also that very old crocodiles also exhibit some traits that overlap with very large crocodiles, particularly the size of the keels on the scutes. I've seen a few of 15-16 foot crocs that had enormous keeled scutes, and massive, rounded heads, but they were shorter than expected. It took a tape measure to verify this though.

That's a key problem with witnesses observing crocodiles, the mind can play tricks. A fat, massive, old 16 footer can look larger than a thin, younger 18 footer. I've even tested this myself, asked visitors to a crocodile park to compare the length of two crocodiles that I knew were very similar but one was rather obese and the other was somewhat thinner. Every time they would over-estimate the fat croc, and under-estimate the thin croc. We have an adult female who is 11.5 feet long, one of the longest C. porosus females I've ever measured. Yet she's old and frail, and looks about 8-9 feet long in most people's eyes.

It all underlines how unreliable our eyes and brains can be. Perhaps I've also seen too many examples of fishermen / tourists who vastly over-estimated the size of a crocodile that was later captured and measured. These people will swear up and down blind that it was larger than their 7 m long boat, or longer than a 25 ft sand bank, or stretched between two trees over 20 feet apart, or... etc... you get the picture.

Thoughts@Sam said...

hmmm... no-one probably knows or has heard of the 23 footer salty (the Guiness book has accepted that) that lives in the wild in the Bhitarkanika reserve in Orissa, India. There are 3 crocs which are more than 20ft and around 6 which are in the 16ft-20ft category. All out os around 1500 + salt water crocodiles. Would be good for you guys to pay a visit to that place to see big crocs in the wild
-- Sam

Adam Britton said...

Hi Sam, that 23 footer has been investigated and found to be an estimate made by an observer from a boat. It was neither verified nor measured. For this reason I recommended that Guinness remove this "record" from their recent editions, I'm not sure if they've done this.

Jeselle Arce said...

Great put up, very informative. In November 2011, Australian crocodile expert Dr. Adam Britton of National Geographic sedated and measured Lolong in his enclosure and confirmed him as the world's longest crocodile ever caught and placed in captivity. Thank you in your sweat!

Ace Aenigma said...

Hey, Lolong was a male right? So why didn't they extract his sperm cells and find the largest female croc they have and implant them. That way we could breed genetically large crocs.

OdishaTourismOnline.com said...

Hi All, I am really happy to see people respecting and caring for an ultimate predator who have existed and mastered themselves since the dinosaur age. Lolong's death was also a big shock for me as I saw the documentory on Lolong couple of weeks before and while researching on him, got to know that he is sadly passed away.

I am from Odish a state in India. I recently visited a crocodile sanctury in Odisha named 'Bhitarakanika' and the best news for all of us is that, this place has world's largest crocodiles, though not in captivity. I had a discussion with Mr. Kar the senior officer in the reserve and he stated that 2014 crocodile census in Bhitarakanika summed a huge number around 1644 crocodiles, of which 3 are more than 20 ft, 1 the largest crocodile in world recorded as 23 ft, and around 16 crocodles between 18-20 ft. The place was awesome and people were very friendly and informative. During my visit I saw a gigantic crocodile named Kali which is the 23 ft er reptile. But they unlike Philipine zoo are not willing to capture this crocodile and put it in captive. So this crocodile may thrive. I will share the pic of this crocodile shortly.

Adam Britton said...

Those measurements are unverified though; they are estimates based on visual observation from a boat, and not actual measurements taken with a tape measure. So no matter how large they actually are, they can't be compared against actual measurements. I agree with and respect their decision not to capture those crocodiles just to measure them, but that doesn't change the fact that they're only estimates. The only way to get a better idea would be to use something like stereophotogrammetry of the crocodiles against reference points to get a more accurate estimate of size, certainly to within 10 cm if it was done right, but that's no easy task.