July 2005
Crocodiles: What A Croc!

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TRIPPER The Backpacker's Bible, July 2005



News Source: TRIPPER The Backpacker's Bible, page 32-33, July 2005

At 65 million years old and counting, the crocodile is about as dangerous as an animal gets – massive, carnivorous dinosaurs that have eaten many an unhappy camper. And unlike a lot of other creatures that simply want to be left alone, a Saltwater Crocodile will actively stalk humans and there are an awful lot of them up north…

Every year in Australia, some unwary or just plain unlucky people – many of them tourists – get eaten by crocodiles, usually for swimming in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Thanks to a strong conservation program in the past couple of decades, the estuarine crocodile now inhabits a massive range of habitat – they basically own the north of Australia.

There have been sightings as far south as Maryborough, and they inhabit every part of the coast, including coastal river systems, offshore islands and even hundreds of kilometers inland.

A 3.5m croc was run over by a train in Townsville in 2002, and there are regular sightings of 4m-plus beasts as far south as Broome in Western Australia.

They have an incredible hunting ability, a result of enormous strength, killer teeth and heightened senses.

So if you’re heading north, particularly to the Northern Territory, for the sake of your own life, read the signs! Here’s what’s more than likely to happen if you don’t. Only one of the following stories has a happy ending.

Real Story Croc Tale #1

On a hot night in The Kakadu, a group of tourists decide to go for a late night dip at Sand Billabong, south of Jabiru, despite clear warning signs that had been erected. The group were only a couple of metres from shore when one bloke felt something bump his leg.

Seconds later, a young German women was taken by a large croc; her remains were recovered the next day, two kilometers away.

Two large crocs were hanging around, one of which was harpooned.

The local people might slightly downplay the risk, and tourist brochures don’t exactly spell everything out, so just don’t take risks for the sake of a swim.

Real Story Croc Tale #2

In 2003, at Finnis River, 80km south of Darwin in the NT, three teenagers were washing mud off themselves in the flooded river after dirt biking.

One guy slipped into the river, so naturally his friends went to his aid.

They spotted a 4m croc nearby and retreated to the safety of a partially submerged tree.

They didn’t see their friend get taken, only his body in it's mouth as it swam away with him.

It returned a short while later and circled the tree for hours, literally eyeballing the terrified kids and forcing them to spend the night in the tree until they were rescued by a helicopter by the morning.

The boy’s body and the crocodile were never found.

Real Story Croc Tale #3

Just last year at Bathurst Bay, some 250km north of Cooktown in Queensland, a family were camped 40km from the banks of the river and had turned in for the night.

Andrew Kerr was asleep in a tent with his wife and child when a 4.2m beast dragged him out by the legs and started heading for water.

His mother, a 60-year-old woman, jumped on its back and began hitting it, causing it to attack her. Go granny!

Thankfully a member of the party had a gun and the croc was shot, not unlike a gangland criminal, in the back of the head – both victims suffered multiple injuries before being airlifted out.

The crocodile was estimated to be more than 50 years old.

Croc Facts

  • They have brilliant hearing and possess vibration receptors at the base of their teeth, which means they can be underwater and sense an animal drinking at the water’s edge.
  • Crocs have a transparent third eyelid, which lets them see well under water.
  • They eat anything that bleeds, as well as weird shit like kerosene tins, rocks and chewing on boat propellers.
  • To give you an idea of their strength, they will attack a full-grown water buffalo, dragging a one-tonne animal into the water before drowning it and tearing chunks of its body with what they call the ‘death roll’.
  • They can leap vertically out of the water and move with astonishing speed on land.
  • Never get between a crocodile and the water.
  • They are highly territorial creatures.
  • All year round is the bad time for the crocodile.
  • They reach lengths of up to 20ft long with a body like a massive barrel and teeth a couple of inches long, though bigger sightings have been reported.

Steve Irwin

In the past 10 years, Steve, or “The Crocodile Hunter’ as he is affectionately known, has become one of Australia’s most widely exported personalities – a bit like Paul Hogan in the ‘80s and ‘90s, except this guy is the real deal.

He grew up on the Sunshine Coast at his parents’ reptile park at Beerwah, involved in the feeding and care of animals from a young age.

His father would take him out in crocodile-infested waters of North Queensland at the age of nine where Steve would jump in and wrestle smaller crocodiles.

He and his father can proudly boast that every crocodile at their farm was either caught by hand or bred and raised at Australia Zoo.

He worked in crocodile management programs during the ’80 and ‘90s, camping out in mosquito-ridden swamps and rivers for months, capturing and removing problem crocodiles and educating the locals as he went, so that the wholesale slaughter of the animal would not continue.

It was his television program, ‘The Crocodile Hunter’ that really propelled him to the heights of fame both here and overseas – it seemed that people just couldn’t get enough of giant, terrifying animals and Steve’s ocker saying, the most obvious of which is ‘crikey’.

He is a committed conservationist, along with wife Terri, and has brought large tracks of bush on the Sunshine Coast, designated to remain undeveloped.

He has, at least in the minds of a lot of people, done more for raising the profile of Australian wildlife, particularly his beloved Saltwater Crocodile.

Steve is a busy, busy man. So it was told each time I called Australia Zoo to organize an interview – there was no chance of this lowly hack making it anywhere near the big affable fella, which was a real bummer!