The return of crocodile rule

© Provided by ABC Business A crocodile sunbakes on the banks of the Daly River. (ABC News: Michael Franchi)

The Northern Territory’s saltwater crocodile population has soared since the species was almost shot to extinction 50 years ago. Now crocs are getting bigger and edging closer to urban centres.

In the hothouse blooms of Australia’s tropical north, these canopies have been hiding a big secret.

Underneath, in January this year, wildlife rangers removed a crocodile nest.

The discovery was less than 1 kilometre from the suburban fringes.

The nest was found at the edge of Palmerston, a city of approximately 40,000 people, about a 15-minute drive south of Darwin.

Rangers in the Northern Territory are used to seeing crocodiles on their patrols. In the past 50 years, saltwater crocodile numbers in the NT have grown from 3,000 to 100,000.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article may contain images of people who have died.

But this was the first time the saltwater crocodile, one of the deadliest predators on the planet, had been recorded laying eggs within 50 kilometres of the NT’s capital city.

The find baffled Ian Hunt, a crocodile ranger with the NT government.

“It’s really bizarre to find a nest up here … It’s real close,” Hunt says.

Yusuke Fukuda, a leading crocodile researcher in the Territory, is working to find out where the crocodile has come from.

To unravel the mystery, in his laboratory Fukuda takes a DNA sample from the hatchling.

Hundreds of crocodiles are trapped in Darwin Harbour each year, and Fukuda is building a database that maps their origins.

He says the nest discovery near Palmerston is a sign the Top End’s migratory crocodiles are pushing into new places.

“I think it means good crocodile breeding habitats are getting saturated,” he says.

“We might be finding more and more nests where we think they should not be, or where we do not think they would be.”

Survival instinct

At Crocodylus Park, a tourist attraction on the outskirts of Darwin, park owner and croc expert Grahame Webb points to one of his biggest crocodiles.

“Crocodiles are predators, serious predators, and they’ve been preying on the most primitive of people all through human evolution,” he says.

Crocodiles, and experiences like a croc cruise at Webb’s park, are synonymous with the Territory.

But for a long time, it was rare to see a large crocodile in the wild in the NT.

Only 50 years ago, large numbers of saltwater crocodiles were being killed by hunters, as depicted in this vision from the National Film and Sound Archive.

Hunting pushed crocodiles to the brink of extinction in the NT.

It was estimated at the time that from the end of World War II, 113,000 crocodile skins had been exported from the NT.

It left the croc population teetering at a perilously low 3,000.

But a hunting ban, introduced in 1971 in response to fears the lucrative resource would vanish and evolving societal attitudes to wildlife protection, saved the species from extinction.

The NT’s crocs have now been a protected species for decades.

Yearly monitoring reports indicate there are now 100,000 saltwater crocodiles swimming around the NT.

Experts say while the crocodile population has stabilised, crocodiles are getting bigger on average each year as more of them reach maturity.

NT government monitoring of Top End rivers has found a shift in the total weight of crocodiles observed.

“In broad terms, there has been a decline in the proportion of crocodiles in the 1-to-3-metre size range in the population in recent years, and increases in the proportion of crocodiles in the 3-to-4-metre size range and in the proportion greater than 4 metres in length,” a 2019 monitoring report says.

In the NT’s waterways, big crocs are abundant in places where Territorians once swam without fear.

Living with crocodiles

Contact between humans and crocodiles in the wild doesn’t get much closer than on the Top End’s Daly River, about 220 kilometres south of Darwin.

This kind of protected landscape is the lure for many visitors to the NT.

The river is a mecca for barramundi fishers.

Pulling big fish out of a croc habitat into little boats, anglers are particularly alert to the re-emergence of the species.

“We don’t want to count [croc] numbers anymore,” Rob Cook, a fisher on the Daly, says.

However, increasing croc numbers is not the only thing concerning anglers.

“They seem to interact a lot more with boats now than they used to,” Cook says.

These trends are making some on the water nervous, sparking calls for a culling program.

“Once I think they start doing that, the crocs will be a bit scared of the boats like they used to be,” says Russell Walton, who fishes in the Daly every year.

Stuart Brisbane has made a living on the same river with his fishing business since the 1990s.

And he has seen the crocodile population soar.

“People used to swim in the river here,” he says.

“But you wouldn’t swim here now.”

For Brisbane, however, culling would be contrary to the Territory way of life.

“The scenery, it’s untouched. The birdlife, the crocodiles … there’s not many places left that are like that.”

Eyeing a crocodile swimming around his boat, he says he does not think humans need to take up arms again.

“It’s their backyard, they live here,” he says.

“If they’re not causing a huge problem to us, why disturb them?”

However, overly familiar crocodiles — and calls for a cull — aren’t new to the Top End’s rivers.

The calls date back to the late ’70s when, around the time of two fatal attacks, the notorious 5.1 metre “Sweetheart” began regularly attacking dinghies at a popular fishing spot.

Back in Darwin, wildlife researchers Erin and Adam Britton have been tracking crocodile attacks in Australia and around the world through their online database.

And they’ve discovered some trends in the data compiled from more than 5,250 incidents in Australia and overseas.

Erin says the data shows the likelihood of a crocodile attack rises the longer an area goes without an incident.

“We’ve found that the vast majority of crocodile attacks are occurring because locals feel quite comfortable with interacting with crocodiles in the environment and they’re taking far more risks,” she says.

From 2005 to 2014, 15 people were killed in crocodile attacks in the NT.

Since 2014, there have been only two fatal attacks, both in 2018.

Frightful beauty

Stunning sunsets are a staple of life in the Top End.

And when the raging heat of the day softens, and the Sun descends on the horizon, this is when families flock to Darwin’s beautiful beaches.

Beach-going is part of the lifestyle of many Territorians, despite full knowledge there could be deadly animals lurking in the water.

“The public is often complacent,” the Northern Territory government’s Parks and Wildlife Commission executive director, Sally Egan, says. 

“I’m not comfortable that people are making the right choices necessarily.

“There are a lot of small children playing close to the water’s edge on beaches, which truly makes me go cold to the bone.

“When it comes down to it, is the behaviour of the public good enough for them to stay safe, such that we won’t have another fatality in the next little while? No.”

Under the Northern Territory’s crocodile management plan, rangers remove every crocodile found in waters around large populations.

But Egan warns that does not remove the risk of an attack.

Given the ever-present threat, Egan says it’s the Northern Territory government’s position that it cannot be responsible for public behaviour when it comes to crocodile risk.

“We can’t keep you safe. You have to do it yourself,” she says.

“That’s part of why I need to publish as much information about what the risk is … so people can make their own choice.”

Be Crocwise, the NT government’s long-running public awareness program, warns: “Any body of water in the Top End may contain large and potentially dangerous crocodiles.”

Crocodile kings

In Arnhem Land, rangers armed with long oars rush into a crocodile nest near Maningrida.

It’s not egg-laying season when the rangers arrive at the nest, but the mother could still be lurking.

In case she emerges, they wield the oars to keep her at bay.

The mother has fashioned a network of grass channels into the nest from which she can attack.

Dirty water or shuffling blades of grass could be signs the rangers have company.

“She hides herself there in the grass,” Bawinanga ranger Greg Wilson says.

“That’s a track here going in, straight up to her nest.”

For decades, the rangers have been conducting crocodile egg collecting, which helps keep croc numbers down.

“There’s too many crocodiles right now,” says Wilson, who has been collecting eggs since 2003.

But it’s also a good earner for the rangers, whose collected eggs will hatch in crocodile farms around Darwin.

These farms are estimated to contribute more than $100 million to the Northern Territory’s economy.

Aboriginal rangers and traditional owners such as Wilson are permitted to trap, relocate or shoot problem crocodiles.

For traditional owners like Jonah Ryan, such decisions are complicated.

He has totemic connections to the crocodile through the songlines of his ancestors.

“I’m part of the crocodile, too,” he says. “They are called Baru around Arnhem Land, and that’s my grandmother’s totem.

“When I was a kid, she used to tell me, ‘One day you get the right to decide what to do with the crocodile.'”

Just 110 kilometres east of Maningrida, in Ramingining, local rangers are building Australia’s only Aboriginal-owned crocodile farm.

The prototype farm is big enough for almost 1,400 crocodiles.

Community leaders have long advocated farming crocodiles as a way to create jobs.

“The old people, they’ve been talking about putting in that crocodile farm,” says elder and Arafura Swamp ranger Peter Djigirr.

“Now they’ve passed away, and we were for a long time asking, and now we’ve made it.”

Northern Territory croc farmer Mick Burns has wanted to see crocodile farms in remote communities for decades.

“[Indigenous Australians] have lived with this apex predator for thousands of years, and we learn more from them about crocs than we teach them,” he says.

Burns is now in discussions with multiple Aboriginal communities to establish crocodile farms that are owned and operated by Aboriginal people.

‘We’re in uncharted waters’

As the crocodile recovery brings profits, it also raises questions about how humans and crocodiles will continue to live together for the next 50 years.

The discovery of a saltwater crocodile nest near urban Palmerston, Grahame Webb says, is a wake-up call for the NT government’s crocodile management program, and shows more research on crocodiles is needed.

“The fact that some crocodiles have escaped detection and escaped capture and gotten into some hidden swamps where they are nesting just means the program probably needs to be looked at,” he says.

“Is it achieving its aims?”

The NT government says its crocodile management program will be reviewed this year.

But to get the management program right, Webb says the NT’s research capability and investment, once the envy of the world, needs a considerable overhaul.

“We have no research capacity [in the NT],” he says.

“There’s no institutional commitment to research. We’ve lost all that.”

For Adam Britton, humans are once again entering the unknown when it comes to crocodiles.

“I think we’re in uncharted waters,” he says.

“We’re seeing higher densities of larger crocodiles, we’re seeing crocodiles appearing in places that people haven’t expected to see them before, we’re seeing behaviours from crocodiles that we haven’t seen before because they’re now starting to act in a more natural way.

“I think there’s a lot more that we need to learn over the next few decades to try and keep this relationship between people and crocodiles at a level that is acceptable.”


Reporting: Emma Masters and Steve Vivian

Photographer: Michael Franchi

Digital production: Steve Vivian

Gallery: How sea otters can help fight climate change (StarsInsider)

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related


Australia gives in-principle support for net zero by 2050

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s Cabinet on Monday will consider conditions the government’s junior coalition partner has placed on committing the national to a target of zero net carbon emissions ... Read more »

Be cosy & chic! FEMAIL picks out the best knitwear buys

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo Sweater weather has returned and, luckily, this season’s knitwear is as comfortable as it is chic. From the AW21 runways, we were inspired ... Read more »

MAD Lions owner faces heavy backlash after publicly voicing criticism about AD carry Carzzy

© Provided by Dot Esports It hasn’t been that long since the LEC’s MAD Lions were eliminated from the 2021 League of Legends World Championship. However, team owner Luis Miguel ... Read more »

Why less really is more: Young mum shares her top tips for decluttering and organising your kitchen - and why a 'minimalist' lifestyle is the key to happiness

Financial advisor shared tips for decluttering and organising your kitchen spaceCanna Campbell, from Sydney, started living minimalist lifestyle seven years agoShe credits minimalism for keeping her home clean, organised and clutter-freeMinimalism started in her kitchen after she simplified 'busiest room' in her home  Read more »

Barnaby Joyce's big flip flop: Devastating quotes show he was Australia's biggest opponent of global warming action... but NOW he's brokered a climate deal

National Party declared it will support a 2050 net zero carbon emissions targetThe move finally harmonises Labor and Coalition climate change policy The target also marks a major shift for Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby JoyceMr Joyce has previously questioned climate change and opposed any action  Read more »

Devastated mother of little Cleo Smith shares adorable new photo of the four-year-old with her sister – as eerie new CCTV footage from a beach shack captures her voice the day before she vanished

The heartbroken mother of Cleo Smith has shared an adorable new photo of the four-year-old in another desperate plea for answers as eerie CCTV footage captures the little girl’s voice ... Read more »

DAP ‘shortage' and how it has become a big issue in Haryana

© Provided by The Indian Express Written by Sukbir Siwach AN ACUTE shortage of di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) in Haryana has seen desperate farmers pelting stones at the police, blocking roads ... Read more »

Kerala Hindu leaders form body for issues confronting community

© Provided by The Indian Express Various Hindu ashrams and prominent monks in Kerala have formed the Kerala Dharmacharya Sabha (KDS), a forum to form an authoritative opinion on all ... Read more »

Nepal's Chief Justice says will stop allocating cases to benches at his discretion

© Provided by The Indian Express Chief Justice of Nepal’s Supreme Court, Cholendra Shumsher Rana, announced on Sunday that he would give up the discretionary practice of allocating cases to ... Read more »

Ex-Rep. Vito Fossella's comeback attempt headlines local elections

Former Congressman Vito Fossella is attempting a political comeback by running for Staten Island borough president. Daniel William McKnight Ex-Rep. Vito Fossella’s attempted political comeback in the race for Staten ... Read more »

Pinarayi Vijayan urges Stalin to draw water from Mullaperiyar dam as levels rise

© Provided by The Indian Express Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to his Tamil Nadu counterpart M K Stalin, urging his government to draw maximum quantities of water from ... Read more »

Paris Hilton Rocks Toilet Paper Wedding Dress at Her Backyard Bridal Brunch

© Provided by People Artagee/Instagram Paris Hilton has proven that she could walk down the aisle in just about anything and still be the definition of bridal goals. The This ... Read more »

SNL 'scrambling' to replace Ed Sheeran as he battles COVID-19

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo Saturday Night Live producers are ‘scrambling’ to replace Ed Sheeran for the show’s November 6 broadcast after the singer revealed Sunday that he ... Read more »

IS claims responsibility for bomb attack in Uganda

CAIRO (Reuters) – Islamic state claimed responsibility for a bomb attack that killed at least one person in Uganda’s capital Kampala on Saturday night, the militant group said in a ... Read more »

Kane Brown Injures Ankle During Onstage Mishap In Memphis

Kane Brown is nursing a twisted ankle after a bit of onstage fun led to an injury during a Saturday night concert in Memphis, Tennessee. © Shutterstock Kane Brown In ... Read more »

World Pasta Day: What Pasta, Which Sauce - Singaporean Explanations Included!

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to how you enjoy your food, but actually hor, pasta is shaped differently for good reason. There’s no right or wrong when ... Read more »

Japanese tourism after Covid-19 looks to build on Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, but some doubt official strategy

Visitors on the observation deck of the Shibuya Sky tower in Tokyo. Japan is looking to attract nearly twice as many visitors by 2030 as it did in 2019. Photo: ... Read more »

World Pasta Day: What Your Fave Pasta Says About You

Are you a Sassy Old Soul, a Chin Chai Loner or a Ma Fan Boomer? Are you a Sassy Old Soul, a Chin Chai Loner or a Ma Fan Boomer? ... Read more »

Self-driving race cars make history in Indianapolis

© Provided by New Straits Times INDIANAPOLIS: The winner was not a driver but an algorithm on Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the top car clocked an average ... Read more »

Kerajaan faham penternak tertekan: Ahmad

© Provided by Sinar Harian ALOR SETAR – Kenaikan harga bahan-bahan asas pembuatan makanan haiwan seperti jagung dan soya yang diimport dari luar negara telah menyumbang kepada peningkatan harga produk ... Read more »

Buru kemenangan demi penyokong

© Provided by Sinar Harian PENYERANG Bawah 22 Tahun (B-22) negara, Luqman Hakim Samsudin berazam menghadirkan kemenangan buat penyokong khasnya rakyat Malaysia apabila menyingkap tirai saingan Kelayakan Piala Asia 2022 ... Read more »

RIL shares may rise 4% on strong Q2 numbers

Mumbai: Shares of Reliance Industries are likely to gain 3-4% after the oil-to-telecom conglomerate reported a 43% rise in consolidated net profit for the September quarter from a year ago. ... Read more »

Qatar frustrated with US slow-walking request to buy drones: report

Qatar is voicing their frustration toward the Biden administration for allegedly slow-walking a request to buy advanced drones from the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday. © Getty ... Read more »

China Expects New Covid Outbreak to Worsen in Coming Days

(Bloomberg) — © Getty Images via Bloomberg China Expects New Covid Outbreak to Worsen in Coming Days Most Read from Bloomberg Cities’ Answer to Sprawl? Go Wild. Why Americans and ... Read more »

Trump subpoena? Capitol riot panel chairman says 'nobody's off limits'

The chairman of the House Jan. 6 Select Committee would not rule out subpoenaing former President Donald Trump as part of its investigation into the Capitol riot. © Provided by ... Read more »

Fortnite welcomes Resident Evil's Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield

© Provided by GamesRadar New skins for Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine are coming to Fortnite Two legendary S.T.A.R.S. members are shrugging off Raccoon City and taking an island break ... Read more »

Activision Blizzard is offering players the chance to change their BattleTags

© Provided by GamesRadar Overwatch As Activision Blizzard is giving an Overwatch character a name change, the company has also opened up the opportunity for players to change their BattleTags, ... Read more »

Yami Gautam steals hearts in first Karwa Chauth look; Sonali Bendre flaunts 19 year old wedding lehenga

© Provided by Pinkvilla Last night, on October 24th, many people around the country, especially married women, celebrated the popular Hindu festival of Karwa Chauth. On this day, women fast ... Read more »

Virat Kohli: 'They didn't let us come into the game at any stage'

After India suffered their first defeat to Pakistan in World Cups, losing by ten wickets, Virat Kohli admitted that his side was outplayed. In response to India’s 151 for 7, ... Read more »

A shameful history of Tory dither and delay on banning conversion therapy

In July 2018, the Conservative government promised the UK’s LGBT+ community that they would ban the traumatising, dehumanising practice known as conversion therapy. That month, Theresa May’s government released its ... Read more »

Rogers Communications reiterates support for CEO after ousted chairman's move to regain control

Rogers Building, home of Rogers Communications in Toronto (Reuters) – Rogers Communications Inc reiterated support on Sunday for Chief Executive Joe Natale following attempts by former Chairman Edward Rogers to ... Read more »

Juliet Stevenson: ‘As an older woman, you feel vulnerable just going on camera'

Stevenson at the Olivier Awards in 2016 (Getty) So much of life is about ‘trying not to’,” says Juliet Stevenson. “We try not to cry when we’re upset. We try ... Read more »

Alibaba Cloud develops collaboration platform for 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games

The tool will connect stakeholders at all stages of the event hosting lifecycle – from organisers and suppliers to volunteers and venue operators. Read more »

Insulate Britain vows to resume blocking roads from today despite risk of jail

Insulate Britain protesters have vowed to restart road-blocking protests today despite the risk of members being jailed or fined for causing traffic chaos. © PA The group said the pause ... Read more »

Titans stun Chiefs on short week after upsetting Bills, but players brush aside growing outside noise

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans sent a statement to the league on Sunday with their 27-3 defeat of the Kansas City Chiefs. Holding Patrick Mahomes and Co. to just ... Read more »

How Spencer, The Crown and the internet turned Princess Diana into a Gen-Z queen

Meme queen: Princess Diana in 1995, and Kristen Stewart (left) in ‘Spencer’ and Emma Corrin (right) in ‘The Crown’ (Pool/Liaison/Getty/iStock/Netflix/STX) Timeline dead?” asked one viral tweet in September. “Here’s a ... Read more »

Nationals agree to net zero target by 2050 despite Barnaby Joyce's opposition

Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian Nationals MPs have agreed to sign up to a net zero <a href="/tag/emissions-target“>emissions target by 2050, despite the opposition of leader Barnaby Joyce, in exchange for ... Read more »

Brad Lander's recipe for slamming the housing market to enrich his ‘nonprofit' allies

Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) sponsors an anti-landlord measure that’d be the death of small landlords and affordable units. Paul Martinka A misbegotten City Council drive to prevent landlords from harassing ... Read more »

"My reaction still surprises me to this day." 27 mums on the parenting moments that hurt the most.

© Getty Images “My reaction still surprises me to this day.” 27 mums on the parenting moments that hurt the most. This week, my dear 11-year-old son decided that he ... Read more »

ITCZ to cause rains over NCR, other parts of the country

Rain storm weather disturbance umbrellas sickness disease flu prevention disaster announcement monsoon thumbnail generic 178122558 weather-storm weather-rain news-weather rain thumb weather thumbnail The Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) currently affecting Southern ... Read more »
On you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic