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There has been 35 attacks on humans by saltwater crocodiles in the Northern Territory in last 30 years. Crocodiles will usually attack either for food, or when defending their territories or nests.
Photo: Chris Johnson

August 28, 2001
  Real Audio
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Log Transcript

They can grow to over 7 meters (23 feet) in length, that's more than three times the height of most people, they may weigh over a ton and possess jaws with a frightening crushing power of 3-5 tons per square inch. They are definitely a predator of which nightmares are made.

Of the 22 species of crocodile living today, the salt-water crocodile of Northern Australia is the most famous, or infamous. There are actually two species found here, the salt-water crocodile and the smaller freshwater variety. 'Freshies' as they are known here are generally harmless, but as history has shown, humans are well within the size range of prey for a saltwater crocodile, or salty. Although we would probably only serve as a mere snack.

The Odyssey is currently anchored about one mile offshore in Darwin Harbor. To get to shore, the crew must take our small 13 foot dinghy to the dock. We are a little more cautious than usual after learning that crocodiles are quite capable of leaping clear of the water in an attempt to grab prey from overhanging trees. So we watch our step when climbing down into the dinghy, although it would be near impossible to know if there were crocs close by due to the murky water. Apparently anywhere from 150 - 200 'salties' are pulled out of Darwin Harbour every year in a bid to keep the population in check and remove particularly large or problem animals.

Salt-water crocodiles are known to leap out of the water in order to seize their prey.
Photo: Chris Johnson

The jaws of these giant reptiles are designed to grab prey at the waters edge, including livestock, wild pigs or buffalo, dingos, birds, other crocs and unfortunately, sometimes humans. Once the prey is seized there is little chance of escape as the croc uses its bulk to drag its victim back into the water. The croc will then roll violently in what is known as a 'death roll', tearing its prey limb from limb and drowning it. Crocodiles often hide or store their prey under logs or rocks returning later to feed, but contrary to popular belief, crocodiles do not eat rotting flesh, as they are unable to digest it and like humans, can suffer from salmonella poisoning. Large saltwater crocodiles are serious predators, especially in areas where people share their habitat, on or beside coastal rivers, creeks or swamps. Their effective conservation requires serious consideration of not only the ecology of the crocodile, but also the people who must share their lives with them.

In the coming weeks, we will investigate further the lives of these protected species once driven to the brink of extinction, as well as programs involving the sustainable use of wild stocks. This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from the Northern Territory, Australia.

Log by Genevieve Johnson

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