Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Top End has been justly called The Land of the Crocodile. Just about any body of water in the park may very well be hiding one of the world’s most formidable predators underneath its deceptively calm surface. Two species crocodile occur in Kakadu: the Freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnstonii) and the Estuarine or Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), affectionately known as the Salty. Salties are by far the more impressive of the two. The world’s largest reptiles, they may grow to over 6 meters long, weighing over 1,000kg. The largest Saltwater crocodile ever recorded was shot in Queensland in 1957. That animal was reported to be 8.6 meters long. It pays to remember that when you are looking at a submerged crocodile with only the top of its head and snout visible above the surface, that visible part represents 1/8thof the animal’s total size.
The Saltwater crocodiles are Australia’s largest estuarine predator. In 2010 a group of awed tourist at Kakadu watched a Salty gobble a 3-meter-long Bull shark. And in 2011 a large male Salty killed a Bengal tiger in India’s Sundarbans – the area infamous for its man-eating tigers.
However, life is not always peachy even for such a formidable predator. Only about 1% of all hatchlings reach adulthood. The rest fall prey to fish, birds, monitor lizards and other crocodiles. Though, those that do mature can live to up to 70 years old.
The Freshwater crocodiles are endemic to Australia. They are much smaller than Salties and are not known to attack people. As the name suggests, they live mainly in freshwater wetlands, billabongs, rivers and creeks, though they are tolerant of salt water. They are a poor competitor for Salties, and therefore not as easy to find in Kakadu.