Thursday, March 26, 2009

Crocodiles stalking beach-goers

A territory teacher and paddle boarder John Miller told his story in todays NT News of how a 2 metre crocodile surfaced close by whilst he and his kayaking mate were 10 metres offshore on Monday.
"we paddled back quickly to shore and when we got up on the sand and looked back it had followed us and come right in to the shallows. Its pretty scary."
Earlier on today crocodile management officers caught 3 crocodiles in traps in Darwin Harbour, including a 2 metre crocodile in a trap in Rapid Creek that had been set yesterday.

Some other crocodile related incidents on beaches.


Darwin, NT. In early 2003 an incident occured where a dog was nearly nibbled. A group of people standing on the Rapid Creek bridge were marveling at the sight of a crocodile in the shallows directly below, when somebody down below, oblivious to the crocodile threw a stick out in the water for his dog to fetch. The shocked observers on the bridge shouted down to warn him but it was then a race between the dog and the crocodile who thought all his xmas's had come at once. Luckily the dog made it back to dry land first, with the stick as well.

Darwin, NT. In the late 1980's a local was taking a training swim outside the NT Surf Life Saving Centre at Casuarina Beach when life guards spotted a large crocodile moving slowly towards him and attempted to warn him. The swimmer was oblivious to the crocodile but luckily he was not attacked.

Cairns, QLD. Last year Max, a ridgeback-cross, had a rather lucky escape from the jaws of a crocodile. The dog was drinking from a freshwater pool at Clifton Beach when...

"I heard this enormous splash... there was a flurry of water and activity and then the dog came flying out and he was bleeding," said the dog's owner Ms. Callaway. "It was just all water and me screaming."

After being patched up by the vet, the dog seems to have gotten over it now.

"It's me that needs a stiff drink," Ms. Callaway said.

Cairns, QLD. last year a lady swimming within the stinger net at Holloway's Beach had a shock of her life when she came face to face with 2-3 metre crocodile resting on the edge of the stinger net. She swam away without incident.

North QLD. A few years ago a local north of Cairns dived into the surf after having what he described as a few too many, got an even bigger shock of his life when he landed on top of a crocodile, it lashed out at him and swam away, probably as shocked as he was.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Crocodile attacks dog

Earlier this morning we received reports of a crocodile attack on Casuarina beach in Darwin's northern suburbs. A lady reported that a crocodile had attacked and chased her dog while she was walking it along the beach with her two year old daughter. The dog was in shallow water at the time and has survived the attack.

The typically happy natured black labrador-cross apparently thought it was a big game when the crocodile lunged at him in the shallow surf, snapping and attempting to grab him, but he jumped back and bounded around as if to say, you can't catch me.

Meanwhile the mother immediately grabbed her child who was 5 metres away playing in the shallows, who was apparently quite keen to pat the crocodile. Fortunately nobody was injured, but it shows just how close it could have been for the young child. Luckily the crocodile was interested in the dog (as crocodiles usually are). The curious crocodile, obviously not afraid of humans, followed them as they walked back along the beach 100 metres to the Northern Territory Surf Life Saving Centre.

Saltwater Crocodiles are quite common along this beach and many will eventually get caught in croc traps as they attempt to move into freshwater creeks in Darwin Harbour. They can also move along the coast several kilometres during the night and appear in new locations undetected. However most people may not be aware of this as very few people have ever seen a crocodile off the coast in Darwin.

Should we cull crocodiles?

The recent debate of whether there should be a widespread cull of saltwater crocodiles appears to be deepening. Recent weeks have seen an increase in crocodile related incidents as well as more sightings of crocodiles within urban and rural areas of the Northern Territory. People have become much more vocal within the community and opinions are becoming increasingly polarised.

One of the main issues that seems to be coming out of this is that the government wildlife agency responsible for crocodile management haven't the sufficient numbers of staff to control the increased numbers of crocodiles moving into these areas of concern. This has then increased the danger to the public who are accustomed to the numbers being minimal.

At present the crocodile management team which consists of 3 people have been working around the clock to locate and capture all the crocodiles being reported, keeping in mind that for sightings of crocodiles they are relying on the general public and that many more crocodiles may be unreported. The crocodile team had to travel to Katherine (300km from Darwin) yesterday to spotlight and attempt to harpoon a crocodile reported near a caravan park. After a late night and unsuccessful search for that animal they are now on their way back to Darwin because of a crocodile attack on a dog that occured this morning while they were away.


Watch the video below for a more in-depth view of this subject from ABC Stateline.

video

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cover photo

Here in the Northern Territory, crocodiles feature on the cover of our local paper more then anything else. I don't know of anywhere else in the world that does this as frequently as this paper does. If anyone does know of any other newspapers with frequent crocodile or alligator photos such as this I would love to hear of it.

The cover on the left is from today's paper, showing Burt the star of Crocosaurus Cove, a tourism facility in Darwin.

On the right is photo from a few weeks ago, with a crocodile feasting on a shark. Click for a larger view.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Croc spotting

Another day and another crocodile cover story for the local paper. It does tend to incense certain people after a while, but on the whole it sells more papers and helps to keep the local population thinking about crocs.

The cover pic shows a large crocodile at the local nature reserve of Fogg Dam, a place that supports a large number of crocs but they rarely get seen. Trapping in this area is more of a public relations exercise. If people don't see crocs then at least they see the trap!

In other croc news a small 1 metre crocodile, and I'm guessing it would have been a freshwater croc was spotted on the banks of the Katherine river near a caravan park. Wow, whats next, a news story on spiders being found in trees?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Croc Attacks

Animal attacks grab peoples' attention like little else. Despite the relatively low numbers involved, they always make headline news around the world. Crocodile attacks are most common in Africa and Asia although many go unreported or are poorly documented, unlike attacks in the western world...

List of fatal Alligator attacks in the United States (click here)

Australia's history of fatal attacks ( from www.ntnews.com.au)

MARCH 2009: Briony Goodsell, 11, taken by croc swimming with her seven-year-old sister and two friends, aged 10 and 12, in Black Jungle Swamp in outskirts of rural Darwin.

FEBRUARY 2009: Five-year-old Jeremy Doble killed in the Daintree River in far north Queensland after following his dog into the river where his parents run a tour company.

SEPTEMBER 2008: Vietnam veteran Arthur Booker, 62, taken while checking crab pots at a holiday campsite on the Endeavour River near Cooktown in far north Queensland.

JULY 2006: Eight-year-old girl killed by a five-metre crocodile near Maningrida.

SEPTEMBER 2005: Darwin man Russell August Butel, 55, taken off the Cobourg Peninsula, NT

SEPTEMBER 2005: Briton Russell Harris, 37, attacked by 4m crocodile snorkelling off Groote Eylandt, NT, in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

AUGUST 2005: Fisherman Barry Jefferies killed when croc grabbed his arm and pulled him from a canoe at Lakefield National Park.

DECEMBER 2003: Brett Mann, 22, attacked wading into Finniss River, 80km from Darwin.

OCTOBER 2002: Isabel von Jordan, a 24-year-old student from Germany, was killed by a 5m croc in Kakadu billabong.

DECEMBER 1998: Peter Munkara, 34, an artist from Melville Island, north of Darwin, was found near the island's Paru boat ramp with crocodile bite marks on his body.

AUGUST 1998: Body of man in 20s found in Roper River, 500km southeast of Darwin.

DECEMBER 1997: A man killed trying to swim across the Daly River, 230km south of Darwin.

NOVEMBER 1994: Graham Freeman, 28, a croc handler at croc farm, near Innisfail, Qld, attacked by 4m croc in a tourist demonstration.

MAY 1990: Albert Juzelionas, 43, a Jabiru Telecom worker, killed off Groote Eylandt.

OCTOBER 1988: Alex Bururru, 25, of Maningrida, killed in Cato River near Nhulunbuy, NT.

JUNE 1987: Cornwall Mooka, 37, of Mabuiag Island in north Queensland, killed by 3.3m croc.

MARCH 1987: US model Ginger Meadows, 24, was taken by a 3m croc while swimming in the Prince Regent River in WA's Kimberley region.

MARCH 1987: Kerry McLoughlin, 40, a Jabiru storeman, decapitated by a 5.1m crocodile while wading at Cahill's Crossing on the East Alligator River in Kakadu.

SEPTEMBER 1986: Lee McLeod, 39, from Borroloola, killed by 5.1m croc while sleeping on the bank of the McArthur River.

DECEMBER 1985: Berryl Wruck, 43, of Daintree in north Queensland, attacked in 45cm of water in a creek off Daintree River.

1980: Paul Flanagan swimming at night near Wyndham in WA when attacked.

1980: Bakurra Munyarryun was fishing in Cato River when attacked.

1979: Trevor Gaghan killed while skindiving near Nhulunbuy, NT.

1975: Peter Reimer, 32, killed wading in a creek near Weipa, Queensland.

Crocodile Trapping

Just to throw another spanner in the works, we find out today in a news story that some idiots have been releasing crocodiles from traps that have been set in various locations in Darwin Harbour. This creates a bigger problem because the freed crocs aren't likely to go back into the traps again but are more likely to move further upstream into smaller creeks looking for freshwater and better habitat. Once crocodiles become wary they are less likely to be caught and can move into new areas undetected.

The crocodile management team in the Northern Territory catch and remove crocodiles from designated exclusions zones. Exclusion zones are urban areas where the risk of human and crocodile conflict are increased.

As a result of the recent crocodile fatality the issue of crocodile culling has been renewed in the media, however it's a topic thats often misunderstood by the public. Crocodile exclusion areas are a no tolerance zone that are more effective than a broad crocodile cull, because they specifically target those crocodiles that are most likely to become a threat to people. Although you can never catch every crocodile within the management zone, the overall effect is to greatly reduce risk for people in areas that matter.

RoboCroc


An American Crocodile that got run over by a car recently in Miami underwent some specialist facial reconstruction surgery at the Miami Metrozoo. Metal rods were screwed across its snout and skull to rebuild its fractured head. Its had a lot of media attention and has been given the nickname RoboCroc.

Personally I always pictured a RoboCroc to look more like this!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Living with Crocodiles

This has been a tragic week for the residents of the Darwin region following the loss of Briony Goodsell, 11, to a saltwater crocodile in Darwin's rural area last sunday. It has been an absolute shock to the local community because many people living in these areas didn't realise the dangers of crocodiles can reach almost into peoples backyards when waters levels rise due to wet season runoff. To some people the risk of crocodile attack is something that is associated with tidal rivers and not with the tiny creeks and isolated pools that are scattered amongst peoples property's in the rural area here. Incidents such as these often result in a call for culling and stronger action.

There has been a massive amount of media coverage in response to this story and hopefully something that might come out of this is a greater awareness of the dangers of crocodiles, and a stronger focus on crocodile management, monitoring and community education that may help to prevent this from happening again.

Also within this last week were four other crocodile stories in our local paper showing just how close the dangers of crocodiles are to the community.
The first was a fisherman in Darwin Harbour who was stalked by a crocodile. Secondly a 1.7 metre crocodile was captured from the Botanic Gardens in Darwin city. Thirdly a 5.5 metre croc was stalking another fisherman at the low level bridge at Adelaide River, a place where kids regularly swim. Lastly a 2.4 metre crocodile was caught at another swimming spot behind peoples' property in the rural area.

Below is a video from the fisherman in Darwin Harbour, warning however, colourful Territory language used!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Update: Crocodile Attack

Police have found human remains consistant with a crocodile attack 45o metres downstream of where the girl went missing. They have now called off the search.

Crocodile Attack

There is great concern that a young girl may have been taken by a crocodile in Darwin's rural area. She was reported missing yesterday afternoon and had been swimming with friends at Black Jungle Swamp in Lambells Lagoon. This is area not very far from where we live in the rural area. A search is still under way at present but her friends reported seeing a head of a crocodile and a tail sweeping thru the water, just after she went under the water surface.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Palumpa croc school

A week ago, reports started coming in that children at the remote community of Palumpa in the Top End have had to brave crocodiles while walking across a flooded causeway in order to get to school. They started using a 4WD troopcarrier to ferry the kids across and were apparently attacked by 5 metre monster croc whilst crossing.

When asked about this situation the Northern Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson said no children were "unnecessarily exposed to crocodiles" and dismissed the story as a "great territory yarn".

Despite this, rangers caught three crocodiles from the billabong, and then shot a 4.5m croc about 20 metres away from a house at the community. Maybe he was on his way to the school?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Katherine crocs

Yesterday there was a news report from CLP member from Katherine Willem Westra van Holthe that crocodile management wasn't happening in 2008 for that region. He suggested that this was the reason for an increase in crocodiles being caught in the popular tourist region of Nitmiluk National Park. He said that staff were not replaced after the more experienced crocodile ranger had left the service (who now runs the local butchers in the town!) and traps were not baited and left hanging in trees. Katherine rangers apparently had to travel to Darwin in their own time to receive training from the specialist croc team.

The crocodile management plan for Katherine has an exclusion zone of about 20 kms of the river close to town as well as the gorge region. Regular spotlight surveys of these regions are supposed to be carried out and traps set in the deep billabongs where the salties are usually found.
This Saltwater Crocodile exclusion zone is similar to the one for Darwin Harbour, the difference being that a lot more people swim in the Katherine River than in the Darwin Harbour, however they do catch a lot more crocs over a much larger area in Darwin.

Later on a spokesperson from the department stated that they don't alway's bait the traps in the river because they end up catching too many freshwater crocodiles.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Croc safety when fishing

A little while ago we put out a media release with Kakadu National Park regarding crocodile safety awareness when reviving and releasing fish from the waters edge. Eventually the local paper the NT News ran the story about a month later (its most likely they were waiting for the right time to put a croc pic on the front page). A spectacular lunging shot of our Saltwater Crocodile named Smaug featured on the front page, this photo was also taken by Darwin's Lord Mayor Graeme Sawyer.

The issue of crocodile safety when fishing in north Australia isn't something that we normally worry about because most fisherman and locals are pretty sensible when it comes to crocodiles, but on occasions you see some really crazy stuff. I have also heard first hand stories of people having caught barramundi being snapped out of their hands by a crocodile right at the edge of the boat.
You would probably remember the photo of the Israeli fisherman jumping back from a croc lunge after taunting it to come closer. Follow the link above to read the story or read the comments on it. Comments on stories are often an interesting way of gauging public opinions and reactions.
Also have a look at this blog from ABC local radio in Darwin where you can see people fishing waist deep in water where several large crocodiles were caught.

Pygmy Crocs

There has been a fair bit of media attention placed on the Pygmy Freshwater Crocodile research project we have been involved in.
If you have a look at this site, you can watch a video covering the story, it also contains a lot of footage of pygmy crocs and our research work that we filmed whilst visiting the escarpment country of Bullo River late last year.

Its Back!

Ok, after an unusually long break from blog updates I'm now back and ready to report on crocodile stories.
So many stories to talk about, so much has been happening in the world of crocs, where do you start?
Crocodile issues are certainly very political these days in Queensland and more so of late, with the recent death of a five year old Jeremy Doble on the Daintree River. more on this later...
Also more Crocodiles moving down the East Coast of Queensland into populated areas...
In the Northern Territory there has also been a number of crocodile stories, with kids crossing flooded creeks to get to school and they are also finding more crocodiles in the Katherine Gorge.