Crocodiles in Australia: A Brief History

I’ve written quite a few articles about snakes, spiders and sharks, but I haven’t given anywhere near as much attention to crocodiles. Maybe that’s because we don’t get them round our way. In fact, most people living in Australia don’t get them round their way either.

Crocodiles are only found across the northern tip of Australia, from Broome on the west, to Darwin on the North and then to Rockhampton on the east. And even then, they are only found close to the coast.

So, at a rough guess, I would think that only around one million, maybe max one and a half million Australians live anywhere near a wild crocodile.

A Brief History

Darwin salt croc

Darwin salt croc

Around 1945, just after the war, crocodile hunting went into overdrive until 1971 when it was thought that the population of crocs had hit a low of around 3,000. Crocodiles became an endangered species and hunting was banned and has been ever since.

Since then, crocodiles have certainly been busy; they are thought to number between 100,000 and 200,000 today. But some people say that is too many.

Efforts have been made to try and make the most inhabited areas safe for humans, so any crocodile found within 30 km of Darwin is captured, removed and relocated. The problem with that, is that like homing pigeons, the territorial crocodile will always try to get back to where he feels his home is.

To prevent this from happening, scientists are now Sellotaping magnets to their heads while they relocate them. Yes, it’s true, they really do.

Apparently the crocs navigational system relies on the Earth’s magnetism, the magnet throws them off-track. So, after being relocated, even though the magnets are removed, they just can’t find their way back.

Of course, with the numbers being so high, and as crocodiles are territorial, each croc is trying to defend its own habitat. As a result, the bigger ones, the 6 and 7 metre crocs, are forcing the smaller ones, the 3 to 4 metre crocodiles, out of the river and into the sea.

These smaller crocodiles (which aren’t small at all being twice as big as most humans) have to find somewhere else to live and it’s usually much closer to the towns and cities of the area.

Many have been chased out of the Adelaide River, which is about 200 km east of Darwin, and some are heading west towards the city. And despite being called saltwater crocodiles, they prefer to live in freshwater, so they don’t stay in the sea for long. They are always on the lookout for another river to swim into.

By the time they reach this new river, they’re hungry, they are tired and agitated. That makes for a particularly dangerous crocodile, not the sort of animal you want turning up near where you live.

In 1971, Darwin had a population of just 2,500 people and as we already know, there were virtually no crocodiles about at that time. Since then, Darwin’s population has increased to over 100,000 people and so has the population of crocs in the area. And many of these crocodiles want to live where they used to live 40 years ago.


Despite all this, crocodile attacks remain rare, historically accounting for less than one death per year. This though, is expected to increase slightly over the coming years.

Possible solutions.

Crocodile sightings near schools, for example, a 5 metre croc was spotted near East Innisfail State School, Queensland at the beginning of the year, have led to a call for humane cullings. Source: NTNews

Another suggestion has been the return of safari hunting of saltwater crocodiles to reduce their numbers and, at the same time, create jobs and boost tourism in the areas. Source: ABC

The government also runs a site offering information, the page is called CrocWatch.

My solution is I live in Brisbane.

You can read more information here about Australia’s Killer Creatures and Death.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • tom June 19, 2012, 11:59 pm |

    Hi Again Bob.No need for a follow up I just wanted to say thanks again for all of the up/dates. Always a good read ,and akways educational. Im forwarding todays copy to a couple of my good friends.I will let you know what their comments are. thanks again Bob,and have a good day mate.As always Tom

    • BobinOz June 20, 2012, 4:44 pm |

      Thanks for that Tom, and always good to hear from you. Cheers!

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