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A true-blue battler

Unfairly judged?

Koala control
What to do about the "koala plague" on Kangaroo Island

The Kangaroo industry
Should we eat skippy?

Feral cat
Apex predator in Australia. Confined to urban areas in America.

Tasmanian Devil
The solution to mainland extinctions?

Tasmanian Tiger
A sad tale

Perhaps not so adapted to Australia

Keg of muscle





saltwater crocodile

The Saltwater Crocodile

A living dinosaur

"The saltwater crocodile is the one animal that has the capacity to frighten even Australians. People who would calmly flick a scorpion off their forearm or chuckle fearlessly at a pack of skulking dingoes will quake at the sight of a hungry croc" - Bill Bryson

Although confined to a small and largely uninhabited part of Australia, the Crocodile has done more to create a favourable reputation for the Australian male than any other animal. Characters like Steve Irwin and movies like Crocodile Dundee have created a perception that Australian men love to go for a swim and wrestle any Crocodile that comes their way.

Sensitive New Age Guys aside, it is not a bad stereotype to be associated with for the Crocodile is so strong that any man who tried to wrestle them would have the balls of a lion, the strength of a elephant and be as mad as a cut snake- precisely the traits many ladies look for in their gentleman. Although unlikely to be successful in a English literary class at Oxford University, an Australian man pretending to be a croc wrestler is guaranteed to pick up in almost any American bar.

The Australian 'salty' is the largest Crocodile in the world, growing to 6.2 m (20.3 ft) and weighing 1.5 tonnes. It can pull a water buffalo from the bank, drag it underwater and drown it. Compared to a shark, its jaws are not strong and its teeth are not sharp, so it prefers to drown its prey and then wedge the carcass under a submerged tree and wait for it to decay.

For those Aussie men telling American ladies about their adventures as a Croc wrestler, knowledge of its feeding style is often exploited to add extra drama to a story. The story usually goes that one escaped a croc getting an upper hand by holding one's breath, playing dead, and then slipping away once the Croc had been fooled! Of course fooling a pre-historic creature with an empty belly is a tougher task than fooling a lovely American lass with a belly full of beer. In reality, when a Crocodile is wedging its prey underwater, it makes sure it is dead. If someone is attacked, two fingers in the eyes offers a better chance of surviving to spin those bar room yarns.

Although Crocodiles now see humans as a food source, in days past they saw humans as a predator to be feared. From the 1940s to the 1970s, over-hunting led to Croc numbers being reduced to a few thousand. By 1971, the government had noticed the "marked decline" and decided that hunting should be banned. In less than three decades numbers have recovered to an estimated 70,000. The speed of recovery can be attributed to the lack predators in Australia. Over the 70,000 year period since humans first arrived, the Thylacine, the Tasmanian Devil, the Marsupial Lion and Megalania (seven-meter long lizard) have all became extinct leaving humans as virtually the sole mainland predator.

Now that humans have been largely removed from the ecosystem, there is a lack of predators controlling the populations of either native Australian animals or the introduced species. For Crocodiles, this ensures there is a bountiful supply of Wallabies, Kangaroos, rabbits, pigs, horses and water buffalo to feast on.So quick has the recovery been, that Crocodiles are now invading swimming holes and public beaches. With shooting still illegal, professional Croc wrestlers are brought in to catch the animals. Once caught, the Crocs are transported to farms or zoos where they live out their lives mating with other Crocodiles, performing tricks or just being fed.

Questions to think about


Below are methods that allow some people to make money out of the Crocs. How do you think working in each industry would affect attitudes to the Crocs?

1) Meat and skin- Australia has many Crocodile farms which raise Crocs and then slaughter them for their skin, skulls and meat. The Northern Territory's crocodile industry now generates over $4 million a year, with 48,000kg of meat and over 9,000 skins being processed.

The commercialisation of crocodiles is proving to be great for the environment. The meat is replacing beef and lamb on the dinner table, and so sparing the land from hooved livestock that cause soil compaction and destroy native grass roots.

The need to feed the Crocs is also providing an incentive for shooters to shoot the feral horses, buffalo, pigs and camels that otherwise have nothing hunting them.

2) Zoos - Crocodile farms put on tourist shows involving dare devil stunts. In the past, such stunts included putting one's head inside a Crocodile's mouth - confident that the jaws will never close unless something touches the lower jaw. Such stunts came to an end after a loose drop of sweat from a particularly hot stuntman triggered the jaws to close around his head. Although he survived, the stunt going wrong made him look pretty silly.

3) Hunting - At present, it is illegal for anyone other than an Aborigine to shoot a Crocodile. Some hunters are lobbying for a change in the law so they can take rich tourists on hunting safaris. 




Environmental Issues

Environmental problems
The cultural basis of defining environmental problems

Climate change in Australia
Looking to the past to predict the future

Indigenous environmentalism
Differences between Indigenous and non-indigenous land management

The dark side of sustainable environmental policies

Native pets
Why no pet wombats?

Bush fire prevention
To go native or exotic?