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Animal in Focus: Saltwater Crocodile
- Friday 12th April 2019
- Crocodile, Animals
These prehistoric-looking creatures like to hang out in rivers, lakes, billabongs and open ocean. And contrary to their name, they’re mostly found in fresh water. These beautiful beasts can be found right across northern Australia, up through south-east Asia, and as far north as India.
As the world’s largest living reptile, male saltwater crocodiles can reach a whopping 6.5 metres in length, while the females tend to stay under 3 metres and weigh in at a petite 300 kilograms. The ancestors of these ancient beasts have roamed the earth for hundreds of millions of years. Far from fussy eaters, they’ll chow down on nearly any animal they can catch; from insects, fish, crustaceans and amphibians to reptiles, birds and mammals. But incredibly, these carnivores can go a whole year without a meal. And some of these snappy souls can live to over 70 years of age.
The Man-Eating Myth
Not all saltwater crocodiles are man-hungry monsters. Usually, only large crocs will attempt to take on an adult human; these are referred to as Big Boss Crocodiles. The reality is – horses kill more people in Australia than crocodiles. In any river system, you’ll only find a small number of colossal male crocs, because, by nature, they exclude others from their territory. The term ‘croc-infested waters’ is misleading; there are a lot of crocodiles in the wild, particularly in the NT and WA, but most waterways only host small and medium crocs. As apex predators, these extraordinary reptiles are an integral part of the ecosystem.
Incredible Crocodile Facts
- Crocodiles hunt by hiding underwater, watching prey with only their eyes, nostrils and ears exposed
- A large croc can hold its breath for 2-3 hours underwater
- A crocodile can replace its teeth throughout its lifetime
- Large dominant male crocs, a.k.a., Big Boss Crocodiles, fight over territory, and it’s not uncommon for these conflicts to result in the loss of a limb
- Grasping their prey with their jaws, crocodiles then perform the 'death roll:' spinning their body and twisting pieces of their prey off, ready to eat
- Crocs make attentive Mums, looking after babies for around three months; they carry them to water and roll unhatched eggs on their tongue to help them hatch
- Crocodiles communicate with a series of different sounds
- The change in size from baby to adult is greater in saltwater crocs than in any other land animal.
Conservation and Education Relevance
While the majority of Crocodilians have bony plates under the scales all over their body, the saltwater crocodile has a lovely soft underbelly. Because of this, this big softy is in demand for its leather. Once heavily hunted, they’ve been protected since the 70s, and we’re happy to say – their numbers in the wild have bounced back.
See One in Sydney
You can come face-to-face with a massive saltwater crocodile right here in the heart of Sydney. At WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, our resident colossal croc, Rocky, is 4.2 metres long and weighs over 400 kilograms. If you’re curious, feel free to ask his keepers anything you want to know about these burly beasts.
These creatures are amazing; don’t miss your chance to visit one and see them in all their scaly beauty, right here in Darling Harbour.