Australian Salt Water Crocodile, aka Estuarine, very, very dangerous. Photo by fvanrenterghem.
How cheerfully he seems to grin, how neatly spreads his claws, and welcomes little fishes in, with gently smiling jaws!
There are twelve species in the crocodile family of which the Estuarine/Saltwater, Nile and North American crocodiles are the most dangerous due to their great size and bold approach to snatching a large meal on land or in water be it wildebeeste, lion, shark or human.
Australia: Saltwater vs. Freshwater crocodiles
The popularity of tourism and recreation in the northern areas of Western Australia, the Northern Territories and Queensland along with large Estuarine crocodiles (aka saltwater or salties) living there – in both fresh and saltwater – means that some crocodile attacks are inevitable. Eleven people have been killed by salties in north Australia since 1982.
Oz also has freshwater crocs that are less aggressive, but hard to see and may take a lite bite if surprised or threatened.
Freshwater crocodile in Wyndham, east Kimberley, Australia.
Salties are bigger, have rounded snouts and are extremely dangerous. Freshies are smaller, have narrow snouts, don’t want to eat humans and are themselves eaten by salties. In fact some braver souls assume that if freshies are around, then salties won’t be. . . are you feeling lucky?
East Africa from Egypt to South Africa: Nile Crocodile
A Nile Crocodile in Kruger NP having a fish dinner for a change, South Africa. The average(green) Nile crocodile is 4.27 m long (14 ft), while the largest recorded (grey) Nile Crocodile was 6.45 m long (21 ft). Photo by Bernard Dupont.
The Nile crocodile is an aggressive animal and kills or maims many people in Africa, but crocodile attacks statistics are hard to find. Hundreds are likely, though the hippo – also a river creature of course – is regarded by some as more dangerous. Hippos, though, are easy to see and don’t make a habit of ambush attacks.
Reasons for Attack
Defence – of territory, nests and themselves. They are highly territorial, especially males at certain times of the year and females with nests and young.
Appetite- they get hungry and they can and do eat people, though it’s not a preference.
Accidental – they make mistakes, just like humans. ‘Uh oh, that doesn’t taste like a gazelle! ‘
Bad attitude – a few, particularly Estuarine crocs, are just plain bad tempered animals and will grab anything that moves.
How Crocodile Attacks
Crocodiles like to hang around in pools, lakes and rivers safe in the knowledge that all animals need to drink.
One meal can last these prehistoric beasts a long time so they don’t mind waiting for the right moment. If they are looking to eat a swimmer they will wait for the target to move overhead before striking from below. They may also mistake a swimmer for a rival.
Once the prey is bitten and firmly held the croc rolls its body over and over – the Death Spin/Roll. On land this is fairly slow but in the water it’s more like the speed of a tumble dryer. The result is that the prey becomes totally disoriented.
If the part held by the reptile is a limb there is a good chance of dislocation or complete severance. The rolling continues until the prey is dead by drowning or blood loss.
The death roll is effective and works on quite large animals.
Avoid dangerous areas
• do not swim or paddle in streams, lakes, ponds or in the sea near a river mouth if you’re in a croc zone, especially within 100kms (62mls) of the coast of northern Australia. You may be hot, and that creek may look cool and empty, but crocs are the kings of camouflage.
• if you’re camping in north Australia park your tent more than 50m from any water, don’t leave rubbish around, and don’t collect water from the same spot every day.
• do not dangle arms or legs in the water, however inviting it seems.
• if you see one keep at least thirty foot (10m) away on land; don’t tease them because they only look slow and lazy; only swim in areas posted as safe.
• if you hear hissing or crunching sounds in the undergrowth at night, leave immediately.
• a croc will launch itself out of water like a missile, with no warning, so keep yourself, children and dogs well away from the water’s edge in croc zones. Do not underestimate their ability to propel themselves far out of the water at speed.
• if you come across croc babies – croquettes – leave the area immediately, don’t play with them. Fun, yes, dangerous, yes.
• these animals are mostly nocturnal. You won’t see them, they’ll see you. Don’t swim after dusk.
If a crocodile attacks you on land:
– run away in a straight line. Crocs and alligators will outrun you for about thirty foot (10m) or so (up to 20mph) after which they will need a bit of a lie down. They will outswim you all day long.