Infamous Australian Saltwater Crocodile (Saltie)

Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park

Saltwater crocodiles, also known as ‘salties’ or estuarine crocodiles, are the world’s largest living reptiles. Saltwater crocodiles, which can grow up to 7 meters are common in northern Australia. 

Female crocodiles are significantly smaller than males and on the average reach around 3 meters. Salties are ‘living fossils’ because they didn’t change for 100 million years. Crocs have extremely powerful jaws.

Opportunistic predators

Salties are called ‘opportunistic predators’ because they stay calmly under the water and wait for an opportunity to attack. Crocodiles tire rapidly due to lactic acid rapidly building in their body. If that happens the reptile must rest until it regains its normal ph level. This is one of the reasons why they wait for an opportunity to attack a victim that doesn’t expect it.

They hunt anything they can catch, including water buffalo, wild pigs, turtles and even kangaroo. They pop up from the water using their powerful tails, snap their victim, and drag it back to the water, keeping it under until the animal drowns.

Death Roll

Salties are also known for their ‘death roll’. It is a hunting behaviour used on bigger prey. After dragging prey to the water the crocodile rapidly rolls in order to disorient its victim and after that to remove its limbs.

Crocodiles prefer to tear rather than use their teeth.  Its teeth are mainly designed for catch rather than tear flesh.

Corroboree Billabong - Saltie

History of crocodile hunting

After IIWW crocodiles were hunted commercially as the availability of guns made a huge impact in this matter. People started to hunt crocodiles for their skin, and soon they became very efficient. Because of that crocodile numbers drastically declined.  

For some people, crocs hunting became a sport and in 1950 Australian Crocodile Shooters Club was founded. Rich tourists could travel to North Queensland and experience crocodile hunting. 

The development of new roads in north Australia also helped crocodile hunters as they were able to travel into unreachable parts of the country. Soon hunters also developed techniques to hunt at night using the spotlight.

Protection of Saltwater Crocodiles and crocodile farms

Despite the low numbers of crocodile population, nothing was done until the 1970s. Queensland was the last to proclaim crocodile protection in 1974.

After that happened crocodile farms were built. Every year crocodile eggs laid in the wild are gathered and hatched in crocodile farms. Collecting crocodiles eggs is not for the faint-hearted. 

What’s worse, eggs can’t be turned or jolted. If that happens the embryo will die. This will also happen if the nest exceeds a temperature of 35 degrees.

Crocodiles are under protection and if crocodiles attack humans, then decisions are made to relocate them to crocodile farms where they work as local attractions (like for example ‘Cranky’ in Broome).

After full protection of crocodiles was introduced their number went significantly up. Scientists estimate the Australian crocodile population at 100 000 to 200 000 adults. Salties can be found up to Brome in WA through the entire NT, up to Rockhampton in QLD.

Saltwater Crocodile mating season

Crocodile mate in the wet season. Female lays around 50 eggs in an especially built nest made of warm, moist soil. Female will protect its nest until the arrival of a cooler, dry season.

Then, it will abandon her nest. Temperatures of exactly 32 degrees and 99% of humidity will create male crocodiles and 31 or 33 degrees temperature will only develop females.

What attracts saltwater crocodiles?

Splashing attracts crocodiles and most fatal attacks occur when people are swimming. Crocs are excited by the vibration of the water. We were told that they can also sense the beating of the human heart. 

Adelaide River Saltwater Crocodile

List of saltwater crocodile attacks in Australia

Below is a quick summary of crocodile attacks that could be avoided. This was done based on incidents collected by Crock-bite WORLDWIDE CROCODILIAN ATTACK DATABASE website.

YearAttack Description
199348 years old man was attacked and killed while swimming in the Jardine River (Cape York). Ferry broke down and it is believed that a man was swimming to help fix it.
1996A man was attacked by a 3 meters long crocodile while sleeping on the beach. Crocodile walked out of the water, grabbed him by his foot and started to drag him to the water. Man was able to kick the crocodile and free himself.
2001A 36-year-old man was sleeping in his tent at Lakefield NP when in the middle of the night he woke up and found a saltwater crocodile ‘lying’ on top of him! Crocodile tried to drag him into the river. Friend of the victim attacked the crocodile with the crossbow and the crocodile escaped to the river.
20022years old German tourist was killed while swimming in the evening in Sandy Billabong near Muirella Campground.
200322-year-old male and his two friends were riding quad bikes. They stopped to have a swim at Finniss River and the man was taken by a strong current and immediately attacked and killed by a crocodile. His friends were able to climb a nearby tree.
200418-year-old male was attacked by a crocodile while washing his face in the river near Cairns.
200560-year-old man and his wife were canoeing on Normanton River when a crocodile capsized their canoe. His wife was able to swim safely to shore, but the man was taken by a crocodile.
200727-year-old male was attacked and injured while swimming at Ivanhoe Crossing Near Kununurra.
200862 years old man was checking crab pots near Cooktown when he was killed by a 4.5-meter long crocodile. The crocodile was captured and the victim’s wedding ring was found in his stomach. The crocodile was later transferred to a crocodile farm.
200920-year-old man was attacked and killed when he was swimming across the 61 meters wide Daly River known for the big number of crocodiles living there.
201045-year-old fisherman was attacked when he was diving for sea cucumbers in Arnhem Land north from Kakadu NP. He was saved by his friend who pulled him into the boat.
2011A woman was attacked by a crocodile while snorkelling at Berry Springs near Darwin.
201149-year-old man was attacked and killed by a large saltwater crocodile while spear-fishing close to Cape York.
201159-year-old man in Broome was attacked by a 2.5-meter crocodile that launched itself to the boat and bit a man in the chest. The man was able to hit the crocodile in the throat with his elbow. Crocodile released him and returned to the water.
201326-year-old male was attending a birthday party near the Mary River Wilderness Retreat when he decided to swim to the opposite side of the river. He managed to do it with no problem, but on return run he was attacked and killed by a 4.7-meter long crocodile.
201420-year-old hunter was attacked by a crocodile when he was retrieving a goose that he shot in the wetland. Man gouged the crocodile’s eyes and escaped.
201412-year-old boy was killed while swimming in a billabong in Kakadu National Park by a 2.2 m saltwater crocodile.
201462-year-old man was standing in his boat on the South Alligator River in Kakadu National Park. Suddenly the boat was destabilized and a crocodile emerged from the water. Crocodile grabbed the man by his shoulder and flipped him to the water. Man’s remains were found the next day guarded by a 4.5-meter long crocodile.
201575-year-old man was bitten by a 1.2-meter crocodile while he was playing golf in Port Douglas.
201747-year-old male was attacked and killed when he was walking across the infamous Cahills Crossing. His body was found 2 km downstream from the crossing.

Saltwater Crocodile – Safety Rules

  • always read warning signs
  • don’t leave food or bait in areas inhabited by crocs
  • stand back from the water while fishing
  • don’t clean fish at the water’s edge
  • avoid hanging arms or legs over the side of a boat
  • don’t swim in water where crocodiles may be present
  • apart its very dangerous it’s also illegal to come to crocodile closer than 10 meter
  • set camp at least 50 meters from the water edge 

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