Page last updated at 19:33 GMT, Thursday, 26 February 2009

Magnets disrupt crocodile radar

Crocodile with magnets attached
Magnets disrupt the homing ability of potentially lethal crocodiles

Magnets are being attached to crocodiles in Florida to disrupt their sense of direction and so make them less of a threat to humans.

Crocodiles use the influence of the earth's magnetic field to help them navigate, according to researchers.

Attaching magnets to a crocodile's head seems to disrupt its "homing" ability.

The technique is now being tried as part of an attempt to make streets safer in places near crocodile habitats such as the Everglades.

Crocodiles are extremely territorial. Simply moving them away from urban areas doesn't lessen the risk to humans. Some of the giant reptiles have been found to travel "home" at the rate of 10 miles per week.

But in an experiment now taking place in Florida, conservation officials have moved crocodiles deeper into the swamps and then released them after taping magnets to their heads.

"We put the magnets on when they're captured," said Lindsey Hord, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, "and since they don't know where we take them, they're lost."

'Unique and valuable'

Experiments with crocodiles and magnets were first carried out at the Crocodile Museum, in Chiapas, in Mexico.

Scientists there say they have used the technique to re-locate 20 crocodiles over the past few years.

The crocodile was once an endangered species in the United States, but conservation efforts in Florida mean that numbers are increasing and there are now believed to be nearly 2,000 of them.

"Crocodiles are unique and valuable creatures," said Lindsey Hord, "and we feel like we have a responsibility to live with these animals as much as we can."

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