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, which enjoys 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. We tell you more about these creatures in this article.
Table of Contents
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 fresh water, but it can sometimes be found in marine environments. It can measure up to 3 metres long and is not considered very dangerous to humans. Nevertheless, there have been some non-fatal attacks, mainly when it feels threatened.
The salty is the biggest of all crocodiles, and can measure up to 7 meters long! It is also the most aggressive species. It is found in salty waters in coastal areas but also in freshwater inland.
The number of crocodiles in Australia
The population of crocodiles in Australia is between 100,000 and 200,000 salties and over 100,000 Freshwaters (NT government website).
The crocodile population had nearly disappeared in Australia due to poaching. Today, crocodiles are protected and cannot be hunted.
Where can you see crocodiles in Australia?
See crocodiles in the wild
It is possible to see crocodiles in the wild (with a bit of 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 to see crocs is Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. It is also possible to take a Jumping Crocodiles cruise on the Adelaide River – NT (about $50/pers.)
There is also a large population of crocodiles living in the Daintree River in North Queensland.
Other places such as Kununurra (WA), Katherine (NT) or Derby (WA) also allow you to observe them if you are lucky!
There is an app that tells you where you can find crocodiles. The QWildlife app is available to download from the Apple store or Google store.
See crocodiles in captivity
Many parks exist in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures QLD ($45 entry valid for 3 days)
Crocodylus Park ($44 entry) a few km from Darwin-NT
Crocosaurus cove in Darwin NT ($38 entry) with the possibility of entering the “Death cage” ($185 pers)
For those passing through Darwin, take a trip to the Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, where you can see Sweetheart, an estuarine crocodile captured in 1979 which measured 5.5 m in length!
Crocodile attacks in Australia
Beyond these few facts, crocodile attacks in Australia are unfortunately real and happen quite often. Most of the time attacks involve pets or livestock, but fatal attacks on humans also occur.
The estuarine crocodile is one of the most dangerous animals in 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 was pulled out of his canoe by a crocodile at Lakefield National Park in northern Queensland. The other two attacks took place in the ocean while the victims were snorkelling.
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 man was attacked by a crocodile in the Northern Territory. He miraculously escaped by punching the crocodile!
In 2017 a lady was swept away by a crocodile near Port Douglas and a fisherman was killed near Innisfail.
In 2021, a sailor went fishing for barramundi near a creek at Hinchinbrook (a large uninhabited island in northern QLD). His wife raised the alarm when he didn’t return in the evening. The police discovered the next day a human leg in the creek. A saltwater crocodile was killed and dissected. It contained human remains. The male crocodile measured 4.86 meters in length, more than twice the length of the fisherman’s boat and almost as wide.
In May 2023, a 65 years old man, was last seen at Kennedy’s Bend, in a remote area of northern Queensland. After two days of searching the area, the police euthanized two large crocodiles and found human remains, believed to belong to the man.
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 sheltering on the roof of their 4WD stuck which got stuck in a crocodile-infested river in Kakadu National Park
A 3-metre crocodile attacked a staffy named Banjo in Darwin, who escaped with beautiful scars to show his dog buddies!
How to avoid the risk of crocodile attacks
Above all, always pay attention to the warning signs! ⚠️
Never tell yourself “no signs … no danger!” Instead of just getting in the water, ask locals or the nearest Tourist Information if the area is safe for swimming.
For fishermen: never empty fish nets too close to the water!
Don’t stay near the water for too long.
If you camp at the edge of the water (watch out for mosquitoes), do not leave 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!
Be aware 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 dangerous situation (see German tourists mentioned above!).
A threatened population
Between 1945 and 1970, crocodiles were actively hunted for their skins and the threat they posed to humans. By 1970, there were fewer than 3,000 saltwater crocodiles left in the Northern Territory.
In 1971, the species was finally recognized as a protected species, and their numbers quickly rebounded. Today, in the Northern Territory, there is approximately one crocodile for every inhabitant! There are around 200,000 saltwater crocodiles in Australia, mainly in areas around Darwin and the Mary River.
However, the loss of their habitat could reduce crocodile populations’ ranges. There has always been a conflict between species conservation and public safety. Crocodile populations are monitored in inhabited areas. Crocodiles spotted in these areas are captured and relocated to remote and non-dangerous areas for humans.
The real Crocodile Dundees
Before crocodiles were protected in Australia, there were many crocodile hunters.
One of the most famous is William Rodney Ansell, who inspired the famous movie Crocodile Dundee. Rodney rose to fame 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. He was also the star of a TV series, “The Crocodile Hunter“. With his strong Aussie accent and outgoing personality, Steve Irwin is still one of Australia’s most famous characters.
John Lever plays a major role in the protection of crocodiles, and founded his own crocodile farm in 1981.
Interesting facts about crocodiles
The largest saltwater croc ever recorded in the Northern Territory was 6.2 m long and was found 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.
A croc’s massive jaw contains up to 68 teeth. Lost teeth grow back quickly. In total, a crocodile can grow about 8,000 teeth in its lifetime.
The saltwater crocodile is the largest living species of crocodile as well as the largest living reptile.
Crocodiles have been around for over 200 million years, which means they survived the dinosaurs.
They can swim at speeds of up to 32 km/h and can run on land as fast as humans for short distances.
Crocodiles can live up to 70 years in the wild, and some specimens in captivity have exceeded 100 years.