For those who don’t know me well, I am completely fascinated by crocodiles! I mean, they were alive when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth and still survive today. While they’re not the closest relative to dinosaurs (because birds are…,which I can explain along with Archaeopteryx later in another blog), they look just as ferocious to me! As a kid [ok, as as an adult still] whenever I go to a zoo or aquarium, I’m on the lookout for the resident croc or shark. The two ultimate top predators in our oceans and rivers.
Crocodiles can be found in the wild in the north of Australia – specifically in the Northern Territory and Queensland where the large saltwater crocodiles ‘salties’ (Crocodylus porosus) lurk in the coastal and estuarine environments, and the smaller freshwater or ‘freshies’ (Crocodylus johnsoni) in the freshwater river systems. As the population grows, the are moving south, and are regularly found down in Broome in Western Australia now. So lots of swimming holes that were safe in the 1980s and 1990s are now croc infested.
For those of you not in Australia, the crocodile population here used to be in the order of two million, until hunting of them increased after World War II. This caused the population to be reduced to a few thousand, giving them a place on the endangered species list. Hunting of salties was banned in 1970 (WA), 1971 (WA) and 1974 (QLD) and the population has steadily been growing since, but is only around 150,000 Australia-wide.
Apparently there’s only something like one in a million chance for a croc to survive to maturity, and even less to old age, a fact I had no idea of! When a female lays her eggs, it’s the nest temperature that determines whether the hatchlings are male or female. If it’s below 30oC or above 33oC, the offspring are female, whereas if it’s between 31-33oC they will mostly be male. The eggs also need to remain out of water as the embryo with drown (through the shell and membrane) if submerged (for instance during flooding).
Crocodile skin is very valuable with a 2-inch square patch worth around Aus$2000! The Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park in Broome (which I visited in 2015), actually breeds crocodiles just for their skin. When they reach maturity, their time is up – which I actually have a big problem with – should we be breeding just for that reason? I believe people can do without products made from crocodile skin, and, as far as i know, they aren’t being bred for using the crocodile meat as well. [Which incidentally, I have tried – in Cambodia – and it was somewhat slimy and a bit like chicken but stronger tasting.] However, the Broome park is also a sanctuary for crocs who have been causing issues in the wild (being too close to human habitation), and have been captured. So they get to live out the rest of their lives in captivity – but safe from other crocs and humans. The park environment is quite natural with murky pools and mud and lots of shade and vegetation. So it’s not a bad place to be…
- a visit to Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin
- jumping crocodiles in the Adelaide River, NT