An Australian zoologist Dr Adam Britton has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for a research trip to the Northern Territory to study Australia’s vulnerable pygmy crocodile population.
The pygmy crocodile was first discovered in Arnhem Land in the far north of Australia in the early 1980s. Only two populations of the freshwater crocodile species are known to researchers, and both have been hit hard by the cane toad invasion, which is decimating native species throughout the north of the country. It is believed there are only a couple of hundred Australian pygmy crocodiles left in the wild.
Dr Britton, from Charles Darwin University, believes the pygmy crocodile populations provide the perfect opportunity to study the impact of an invasive species on a vulnerable one. He first visited the little crocodiles at Bullo River in 2006, and completed a major study of the population in 2007–08, the year before cane toads appeared in the area. Since the arrival of the poisonous amphibians, Dr Britton has seen the Bullo River pygmy crocodile population decline by 70%.
Though he has visited Bullo River several times since the arrival of the cane toads, his time has been limited to a day each visit. In launching his crowdfunding campaign Dr Britton hopes to spend more time in the area studying the species, seeking answers to questions that could benefit vulnerable species more broadly. “We don’t know how a vulnerable population recovers after an event like this. We need to know how it has recovered, how long it took, what the population looks like now — we need to know more about how to deal with invasive species,” he told the ABC.
Reductions to government funding in recent years forced the zoologist to think creatively about how to fund his research. He said crowdfunding the trip was “a bit of an experiment to see how it works”.
Dr Britton’s Pozible campaign closes on 14 December.