A unique wilderness that remains relatively untouched, Australia’s north maintains its original beauty and diversity, hosting a plethora of wildlife. Among these, and an extremely important part of the overall health and balance of the ecosystem, are the fresh and saltwater crocodiles.
With a population estimated at over 200,000, crocodiles are considered one of the most dangerous reptiles on the planet, and with this in mind, it is imperative to know how to ensure your (and your family’s) safety when in croc country.
While freshwater crocodiles can be aggressive during the breeding season (July to September), they aren’t considered to be as dangerous as their saltwater cousins. Being much smaller and generally shy, the freshwater crocodile will usually retreat when approached.
On the other hand, saltwater crocodiles are extremely intelligent, territorial and the largest reptile in existence. Growing up to lengths of 4-7 metres and weighing up to a tonne, the saltwater crocodile is an opportunistic predator that feeds on just about anything that it can hunt, and this unfortunately can include our species.
While on a recent trip to Cape York with my family, I spoke with the local Ranger at Chilli Beach regarding the saltwater crocodiles in the area. He mentioned the two 5 metre local crocs living 1km apart on the beach that we were camped at. A few days earlier, one of these ‘beauties’ got hold of an adult green turtle and all that was recovered was a piece of breastbone. Needless to say, our already strict croc safety efforts were doubled after hearing that story.
Here are some guidelines to follow next time your 4WD adventures take you into… crocodile territory:
1. Obey all crocodile warning signs
– Never swim in water where crocodiles may live, even if there is no warning signs in the area.
– Never provoke, harass or interfere with crocodiles, even small ones.
– Never feed crocodiles; not only is this extremely dangerous, it is also illegal in Australia.
– Be extra careful around water at night and especially in the breeding season, which is July to September for freshwater crocodiles and around the wet season, November to April, for saltwater crocodiles.
– Stay well back from any crocodile slide marks. Crocodiles may still be close by and may approach people and boats.
– Ensure children and pets stay away from the water’s edge at all times.
– Camp at least 2 metres above the high water mark and at least 50 metres from the water’s edge. Avoid areas where native animals and domestic animals drink.
– Avoid returning to the same spot at the water’s edge to retrieve water.
– Dispose of food scraps, fish frames, bait and other waste properly, away from water and your campsite, and ensure previous campers have not left anything behind.
– Never prepare food or wash dishes near the water’s edge or adjacent sloping banks.
– Always stand a minimum of 5 metres from the water’s edge when fishing.
– Be especially vigilant when launching or retrieving your boat and do not lean over the edge of the boat or stand on logs overhanging the water.
– Never dangle your arms or legs over the side of a boat, and if you fall out of the boat, get out of the water as soon as possible.