LEPIDUS: What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?
ANTONY: It is shaped, sir, like itself, and it is as broad as it hath breadth. It is just so high as it is, and moves with it own organs. It lives by that which nourisheth it, and the elements once out of it, it transmigrates.
Shakespeare Antony and Cleopatra
The crocodilians first appeared in the fossil record in the Cretaceous 95 million years ago. They include the crocodiles, alligators, caimans and gharials. We have two species in Australia popularly known as freshies and salties. They are confined to the tropics and particularly common on the front page of the NT News.
The Estuarine or Saltwater Crocodile is the largest crocodilian of them all. It’s range extends from the East coast of India eastward along the Asian coast, around Papua-New Guinea and northern Australia. It penetrates the larger river systems. In its realm it is the apex predator.
Amongst the things that nourisheth our salties are people and therein lies a problem. It is reported that in the 33 years 1971-2004 there were 62 definite, unprovoked attacks, 17 of which were fatal. That averages out to 1.9 attacks each year in Australia, 70% of victims lived to tell the tale, sometimes a rather gruesome one.
So, chances of getting eaten by a crocodile are not high. The chances of a crocodile being eaten by a human on the other hand are higher. Currently selling at $32/kg from Southside Quality Meats – tastes like chicken. Crocodiles are, after all, birds closest living relatives.
The Freshwater Crocodiles ha a longer narrower snout. It is mainly a fish eater, people are not on the menu but they can inflict a nasty laceration. Usually the culprit is a female guarding her nest.
Although risks are low there are ways to increase them. Have a read of the Crocodile Chronicles for examples. Jumping off the bridge at midnight into crocodile infested waters is definitely suboptimal. In Africa and Asia many people have no choice but to fish, wash and draw water from dangerous places. Figures are extremely rubbery but a thousand people a year taken by crocodiles is often quoted. In Africa it is the Nile Crocodile with the fearsome reputation.
I took the next photograph on an Adelaide River Jumping Crocodiles cruise …
These guys have learnt to jump out of the water chasing pieces of meat tied on a string. It passed me so close that I could hear it ticking. The only thing between me and it was air. Connie, our guide, said “If it takes a fancy to you there’s not much I can do with a pork chop on a string.”
LEPIDUS: ’Tis a strange serpent.
ANTONY: ’Tis so, and the tears of it are wet.