If you are going to travel around Australia, you’ve surely heard about the risks of crocodile attacks. These frightening and fascinating animals live in the Northern part of Australia in a warm and tropical climate. You can find crocs along the north coast between Broome (Western Australia) and Rockhampton (QLD) and up to 200km inland. Here’s an overview about crocodiles in Australia.
The different species of crocodiles in Australia
There are two different species of crocodiles in Australia: the freshwater or Johnson and the saltwater (salty) or estuarine crocodile.
The freshwater lives mainly in freshwater, but it can sometimes be found in marine environments. It can measure up to 3 m and is not considered dangerous to humans. Nevertheless, there are some non-fatal attacks, mainly when it feels threatened.
The Salty is the biggest of all crocodiles, up to 7 meters long! It is also the most aggressive. It is found in salty waters in coastal areas but also in freshwater inland.
The population of crocodiles in Australia is around 100,000 salties and over 100,000 Freshwaters (NT government website).
But the population has not always been so high. Indeed, between 1945 and 1970 the crocodiles were hunted for their skin and the risk for humans being attacked. In 1970, there were fewer than 3,000 specimens of salties left in the Northern Territory.
The species was finally acknowledged as a protected species in 1971. From then the number of individuals grew quickly. In the Northern Territory there are now as many crocs as humans.
The risks of attacks
Beyond these few facts, crocodile attacks in Australia are real and happen quite often. Most of the time attacks involve pets or livestock, but fatal attacks on humans also exist.
The estuarine crocodile is one of the most dangerous animals of Australia and kills an average of 1-2 people each year. It is therefore important to be well aware of the dangers if you travel to this region of the country.
Most of the time the attacks happen because of the imprudence of people and could have been avoided.
Here are some examples of tragic stories of crocodile attacks in Australia
- In 2005, 3 fatal attacks took place. A man is pulled out of his canoe by a crocodile – Lakefield National Park northern Queensland. The other two attacks took place in the ocean, the victims were snorkeling.
- In September 2008 a man disappeared while camping on the banks of the Endeavour River (Qld).
- In March 2009 a 11 year old Australian was attacked and taken by a crocodile at Black Jungle Swamp (Darwin NT).
- In April 2013 a young French was attacked by a crocodile in the Northern Territory. He miraculously escaped by punching it!
- In 2017 a lady was swept away by a crocodile near Port Douglas and a fisherman was killed near Innisfail.
Unfortunately, there are many similar stories where crocodiles in Australia are involved…
And some examples that are less dramatic…
- A crocodile stole the catch of an Australian at Cobourg Peninsula, NT … yummy a shark for dinner!
- NT Police rescued a group of German tourists sheltered on the roof of their 4 * 4 stuck in a crocodile-infested river in Kakadu NP
- A 3-meter crocodile attacks Banjo, a staffy in Darwin, who escapes with beautiful scars to show his dog buddies!
Avoid crocodile attacks
First of all, always consider the warning signs! ⚠️
- Do not say “um no signs … no danger!” Instead of getting in the water, ask locals or the nearest Tourist Information if the area is safe for swimming.
- For fishermen: do not empty fish nets too close to the water!
- If you camp at the edge of the water (watch out for mosquitoes), do not let food around and do not put your tent too close to the water.
- Be careful at night … avoid pee breaks close to the the water!
- Know that crocodiles are more aggressive during the breeding season (from September to May) … so be extra careful during this period!
- During the wet season, crocs are everywhere so be careful. In case of floods, it can put you in a delicate situation (see German tourists).
Where to see crocodiles in Australia?
In the wild
You can see crocs (with some luck) on all the northern coasts of Australia (north of the Tropic of Capricorn). We also heard from the locals that Crocodiles can be found in Burnett River (Great Sandy Strait) and North Mary River.
The best place remains the Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory.
It is also possible to do a”Jumping Crocodile Cruise” on the Adelaide River-NT (around $40 / person.)
There is also a large population of crocodiles living in Daintree river, North QLD.
Other spots such as Kununurra (WA), Katherine (NT) or Derby (WA) are also good to see crocodiles!
There is an application to know where are the crocodiles QWildlife to download from the Apple store or Google store.
Crocodiles in Australia in captivity
Many parks exist in Queensland and in the Northern Territory:
- Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures QLD ($43 entry valid for 3 days)
- Crocodylus Park (entrance $40) a few km from Darwin – NT
- Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin NT ($36) where you can enter the “Death cage” ($170/ pers)
For those who are in Darwin, try the Museum & Art Gallery of Northern Territory where you can see Sweetheart, an estuarine crocodile captured in 1979 which measured 5.5 meters!
- The largest salty ever recorded in the Northern Territory was 6.2 m long and was swimming in the Mary River in the 80s.
- Most rivers in the north of the country have an average of 5 crocs every km … The Mary River in the Northern Territory has 15 crocodiles per km, making it the most densely populated river!
- The temperature of the egg determines the sex of the animal.
The Crocodile Dundees
Before crocodiles in Australia were protected there were many crocodile hunters.
One of the most famous is William Rodney Ansell who inspired the famous movie “Crocodile Dundee”. Rodney became famous in 1977 after surviving in the bush for more than two months and for killing a crocodile with his bare hands! More information can be found in his book “To Fight the Wild” (April 1986).
There was also Steve Irwin, who tragically died in 2006. He founded the Australia Zoo in Queensland. There was also a serie dedicated to him “The Crocodile Hunter“. With his strong Aussie accent, Steve Irwin is still one of the most iconic characters of the country!
Among the Croc Hunters John Lever plays a major role in the protection of the species and has created its own crocodile farm in 1981.