Ferocious Crocodiles


Crocodiles come in different forms but they are pretty all the same, sharp teeth, ugly head, and pretty skin.

Of all the crocodilians including alligators, caimans, garial, false garial and crocodiles, Crocodylus Porosus is the largest. Where do they live? Right here in the land downunder. That's right; the saltwater or estuarine crocodiles, the world's largest, still calls Australia home.

We also have the freshwater crocodiles - Crocodylus Johnstoni - taken from the Johnstone river in Queensland where they were discovered. They are called freshies and are less aggressive than the estuarine croc. they feed primarily on fish and some small rodents. No! this does not mean you can walk up and pat them. They live in fresh water, rarely grow over three metres and are basically passive, when left alone. They are unlikely to stalk you, however, will bite if annoyed, threatened or if they have young.

I can hear you asking "what about the South and East Alligator Rivers?" American explorers, who didn't know the difference, discovered them. Quite frankly, our salties would open a can of whoop-ass on d'em gators.

Some older Territorians still refer to crocs, as gators - it sounds cool and easier to say - but you get what they mean. Saltwater crocs, salties, have glands in their bodies that disperse excess salt. This means that they can live in ANY water, which is why most Top Enders prefer showers.

Towards the end of the 19th century , when white settlers arrived in the Top End, there where an estimated 100,000 salties in the waterways of the Northern Territory. Hunting crocs for skins became a major business, up to eight metres, were recorded. When croc hunting was halted in 1971 the numbers had dwindled to an estimated 10,000 or less as fears grew they be wiped out completely in some areas. After crocs were listed as 'A' Heritage in Australia, they were left alone, basically. Some scientists believe that an instinct of survival led crocs in some areas to breed twice, instead of the normal once a year, in an attempt to rebuild numbers. Today the numbers are estimated around 90,000 in the same areas. By the way, crocodiles don't bother with anything less than two metres because they might not survive.

Conditions in the tropics are perfect for this dinosaur, warm water, ample food, room to move and no predators - except man. Today, any large croc, four metres or better, has survived the hunting period and is 30 to 40 years old. The correct way to age a croc is to saw its bones; they have growth rings like trees. Of course not all crocs were killed and the big fellas became very wary around humans, remebering the fire sticks they carry - boats mean death.

Crocodile farming has become an acceptable way to harvest the species. When larger crocs are caught in populated areas, they are taken to farms as breeding stock and also for show and tell. This is the safest way to see crocodiles up close.

With crocodiles back up to significant numbers, tourism has taken advantage of their presence; everyone wants to get closer to this survivor of the ages. The best way to do this is to feed them. The young ones are curious and have less fear of man, to them, boats mean food. As they get larger they will have less fear. Guess what will happen if a croc comes up to a boat expecting to get fed and you don't give him any?

Crocodiles Chronicles: Size DOES Matter

Larger crocs take a little longer to trust boats but the availability of a free feed is too much temptation. Take aggro for example, he lives in the Adelaide River, he is every bit of 5.5 metres, around 70 years of age and he gets fed by tour boats at least four times a day. He doesn't need to hunt; his belly is well catered for. If he can't be bothered eating, he will just give that evil look that says "rack off", turn his back and go under.

Hey Steve Irwin, crikey, he'd be fun to ride, eh? Go on bloke he's not hungry have a go. Just in case you are thinking gees that would be fun, eh? If he goes under I'll just hang on. Riding a death roll would be fun, if you could hang on. However, there is one small catch. Salties have a four-chamber heart, not unlike humans, except they have the ability to shut two of them down. This pushes oxygenated blood into the lungs; it also slows down the heart rate to as little as two beats per minute. A big croc can hold its breath for two hours or more. I bet you can't! As soon as you let go, you are in his territory, he can swim faster than you and hw will be angry.

If you think you can out run a croc on land, now hear this? A saltwater crocodile can exit the water at around 40kph, even if you see him coming, and you won't - by the time you have turned to run, he will have you by the back foot.

People want to see big crocs, tour guides want to feed big crocs. Seeing a saltie of four metres or better, leaping vertically out of the water is an amazing sight. Providing the water under them is deep enough they can get all four legs out of the water. This is particularly impressive if you are a tinny when you realise that a croc can jump over your boat and grab you on the way.

Let's face it; old stinkers are not fussy if it breaths its food - birds, fish, pigs, cattle and people.

Crocs have the ability to slow down their metabolic rate according to food supply. A croc of four metres can live on a chicken for two weeks if need be. Another thing is they don't chew their food; the teeth are designed to crush, hold and snap bones. With a closing pressure, up to 3,000psi they are capable of snapping the bones of anything that walks the earth.

Because they swallow their food whole they need to get a piece that fits down the throat. This is where the death roll comes in, grab hold, snap the bones and twist off a chunk and swallow.

Usually when a croc is approached by a boat it heads for the water. This is not because it's scared, at least not the big fellas. This is a croc's greatest advantage - stealth. From there it can see and hear everything you do.

Make no mistake, once a croc gets over four metres he is afraid of nothing, except a bigger croc. Salties get really big, five and six-metre males are not uncommon. Females rarely grow over three and a half metres.

Crocodiles have a certain mystique about them, which makes humans do stupid things. Swimming! I can't see any, it must be safe; it's not. This stealthiest of predators has all the time in the world, he will wait for days at a time, stalking, sniffing, feeling vibrations and assessing the situation. A croc can submerge and re-surface without so much as a ripple on the water. If you see fish scales on a riverbank in the middle of nowhere, it's probably been eaten by a croc. DO NOT SWIM HERE.

Common sense will tell you that a 'ridged-back mud gecko' will live near a food supply; I like seafood, so do they. Because they conserve as much energy as possible they live near food. If there are lots of barra or mud crabs you will find crocodiles near by.

Salties have multiple eyelids, both horizontal and vertical. They are a transparent film, which act like lenses so they can focus in varied conditions. They can see you on the bank from under the water.

When crocs hatch (they come from eggs) they have light and dark patches on their skin, the dark bits are like solar panels. Low tide in the morning on a mud bank is a good place to find crocs sunning themselves. Like all reptiles they are cold-blooded and need the sun to give them energy to hunt.

As they get larger they get darker, absorbing more heat. They also camouflage themselves to their surroundings, dark water, dark skin. The biggest crocs are usually dark all over to almost black; a five or six-metre croc is huge and needs a lot of warmth to generate energy. It's hard to imagine a lizard of four metres or better. Go outside and measure your tinny, then imagine a reptile that is just as long and nearly as wide.

A five-metre croc can weigh in at 600kg, a six metre around 900kg, this is almost a tonne. Like people, when they get to a certain age they spread in all directions, like me! Consider this if you are thinking of taking one home to show the kiddies.

Crocs are often seen on the banks with mouth open. Once they reach operating temperature they open their massive jaws to allow cooling of the brain. In the cooler times, the long cold week of winter, July 7-15, where night temperatures drop to a bone chilling 12 degrees Celsius, they are sluggish. During cool weather, sometimes, they prefer to remain out of the water whenever possible. This does not mean that you can go swimming in winter - it's too bloody cold. Despite the usual warmth of the tropics it gets quite cold on some mornings, a foggy river-bank is very pretty and it is also very deceptive. The water can often be warmer than the ambient temperature. In this case guess where the crocs will be?

In summer when everything is warm, they are most active. So are the fish. Hence, good fishing for you, good for crocs. It's also mating season.

I used to think that crocs, being air breathers could not attack underwater, pulling up half a barra one day made me rethink this theory. Watching crocodiles feed at close range I learned that they have a flap in their throats, which stops water coming in. However, they must have their head out of the water to swallow or they drown.

Crocodiles have really bad breath - they never brush their teeth - something to do with the size of their legs. Many of the crocodile hunters who survived attacks died from the infection that usually followed.

Strangely enough, crocodiles have the ability to shut down the blood flow to a missing limb or tail lost in a fight. And they never get infections themselves. Apparently scientists have isolated the gene responsible for this and are currently researching ways to adapt it to humans.

Crocodiles are amphibians, they can walk across land as well as you and me and can move very fast over a short distance. They also like to hide in the shade and sneak through the grass, which they can do without a sound.

Living with crocodiles can be a major learning curve.

Freshwater Crocodile


Crocodylus johnsoni or the Freshwater Crocodile

The freshwater crocodile is the smaller of the two crocodile species found in Australia. Males reach a maximum length of about 3 metres, while the females grow to about 1.5 metres. In the wild the freshwater crocodile is a relatively shy animal that feeds primarily on fish. The snout of this crocodile is long and smooth, compared to the wide, rugged snout of the saltwater crocodile. Crocodiles can easily be called living dinosaurs. With a perfectly evolved body for long life with little need of exertion or food, crocodiles, now that they are protected, should be around for another million years or so.

From August to September females dig nests in the open sandy areas approximately 10 metres from the water, in which they will lay about 12 eggs. After some 90 days the babies begin to hatch. The cries of the baby crocodiles will prompt the mother, or another female close by, to excavate the nest, setting the babies free. Just like the saltwater crocodile, the freshwater crocodile will carry its young to the water. Groups of juvenile freshwater crocodiles form creches that are attended by adult female crocodiles.

Did you know...

  • The freshwater crocodile is the smaller of the two crocodile species found in Australia. Males reach a maximum length of about 3 metres, while the females grow to about 1.5 metres.
  • In the wild the freshwater crocodile is a relatively shy animal that feeds primarily on fish.
  • Crocodiles can easily be called 'living dinosaurs', with fossil crocodiles dating back hundreds of millions of years.
  • There's a belief that crocodiles haven't changed much over this time, but nothing could be further from the truth. Millions of years ago, there were many more species of crocodiles, ranging from sea-dwellers through to tree-climbing crocs!

Where Freswater Crocodiles can be found in Australia:

Did you know... The freshwater crocodile is the smaller of the two crocodile species found in Australia. Males reach a maximum length of about 3 metres, while the females grow to about 1.5 metres.

In the wild the freshwater crocodile is a relatively shy animal that feeds primarily on fish. Crocodiles can easily be called 'living dinosaurs', with fossil crocodiles dating back hundreds of millions of years.

There's a belief that crocodiles haven't changed much over this time, but nothing could be further from the truth. Millions of years ago, there were many more species of crocodiles, ranging from sea-dwellers through to treeclimbing crocs!

Freshwater Crocodile

The Tale Of The Mighty Crocodile



They are the world's largest living reptiles and can grow up to 23 feet. They are also one of the most ancient, having existed unchanged for nearly two hundred million years. Crocodiles are adept at learning and memorising routines, such as the location of nearby campers or the routes of travellers. In water, they tend to drag their prey under and drown them.

Crocodiles can be found basking along river banks, Fresh Water Crocodiles in Australia can grow to about 3 metres. Main habitats include wetlands, rivers, creeks, freshwater billabongs and swamps. They display fairly wide habitat preferences (clear water, muddy, still, fast flowing, shallow or deep). Salt Water Crocodiles can also frequent ocean habitats as well as rivers and freshwater marshes near where people live. Their maximum size is enormous, more than 20 feet.

When a crocodile warms-up, their heart rate increases and more blood flows to the surface. This speeds up heat intake and distribution through the body. Crocodiles are protected in many parts of the world, but they also are farmed commercially.

Crocodiles are hunted for their meat, their skin (which is made into leather), and their musk (which is used in perfumes). Because of hunting and destruction of their habitat most crocodile species are endangered.

The adult crocodiles are conditioned to respond to distress calls of the young. Despite parental care, mortality in hatchling crocodiles is generally over 90% due to predators like fishes, crabs, snakes, monitor lizards, raptors, large wading birds, mongooses, foxes, and jackals.

Crocodiles are fast over very short distances out of water. They have extremely powerful jaws capable of biting down with 3,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, and sharp teeth for tearing flesh, but cannot open their mouth if it is held closed.

Freshwater Crocodiles

These crocodiles make their home in inland freshwater rivers, billabongs and swamps of northern Australia. they are generally very timid and primarily eat insects and small fish. As with all native wildlife these amazing creatures should be treated with respect and not interfered with. Despite passage of wildlife protection laws at the national level, communities are often unaware that crocodiles are officially protected.

Freshwater crocodiles are common in the Kimberley , where they bask in and around rivers, lakes and pools in gorges. While they may look ferocious, they are relatively harmless.

Saltwater Crocodiles

Saltwater crocodiles can be dangerous, they are also quite capable of living in the open ocean for periods of time and will cross large expanses of water to reach new areas. Young crocodiles are about 30 centimeters (1 foot) long at birth. After that, they will grow about 25 centimeters per year (10 inches) until they reach six years of age. Saltwater crocodiles are big and awe-inspiring. Males reaching 5 m long regularly and some odd individuals reaching 6-7 meters.

Females will lay up to 50 eggs in a large pile of vegetation, sand and soil, usually on the banks of a river, swamp or estuary. They also point out that because saltwater crocodiles are migratory,  rivers cannot be assumed to be croc free, as a croc could have moved in recently.

These reptiles are very intelligent and instinctive, and have great memory capabilities. If something causes a crocodile stress it will avoid that cause of stress for the rest of its life. The adult crocodiles are said to feed on anything it can outswim or ambush and overpower. Odd objects like chunks of wood, pebbles and even rocks are found in crocodiles stomach.