Australia is home to two types of crocodile: the freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnstoni), and the estuarine (saltwater) crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). Both live in northern Australia, mainly across the top of Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia.
Both types are important to conserve, because Australia is the only country inhabited by the freshwater crocodile, and the estuarine crocodile is a threatened species.
In fact, Australia is one of the few places in the world where estuarine crocodiles have a chance to survive.
Beware! Although these animals are important to conserve, they can pose a serious threat to people. Freshwater crocodiles pose less danger but estuarine crocodiles are dangerous animals.
Estuarine or saltwater crocodiles are an important part of north Queensland's wetlands, freshwater and marine areas. They are the largest predator in these areas and help to maintain the overall health and balance of these ecosystems. Estuarine crocodiles live mainly in tidal reaches of rivers, as well as in fresh water sections of lagoons, swamps and waterways up to hundreds of kilometres from the sea. They can even occur along some beaches and around offshore islands. Estuarine crocodiles are most active at night.
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Crocodiles are potentially dangerous. Never take unnecessary risks in crocodile habitat. You are responsible for your own safety, so please follow these guidelines and:
The Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) says be croc wise in croc country.
- Obey crocodile warning signs. They are there for your safety and protection.
- Never swim in water where crocodiles may live even if there is no warning sign present.
- When fishing, always stand a few metres back from the water's edge and never stand on logs or branches overhanging the water.
- Never clean fish or discard fish scraps near the water's edge or at boat ramps.
- Stay well back from any crocodile slide marks. Crocodiles may still be close by and may approach people and boats.
- Never dangle your arms or legs over the side of a boat. If you fall out of a boat, get out of the water as quickly as possible.
- Never provoke, harass or interfere with crocodiles, even small ones.
- Never feed crocodiles it is illegal and dangerous.
- Camp at least 2m above the high water mark and at least 50m from the water's edge. Avoid places where native animals and domestic stock drink.
- Never leave food scraps at your campsite. Always check that previous campers have left no food scraps.
- Never prepare food, wash dishes or pursue any other activities near the water's edge or adjacent sloping banks.
- Be especially careful at night and during the breeding season, September to April.
Freshwater crocodiles make their home in inland freshwater rivers, billabongs and swamps of northern Australia. These crocodiles move into new areas during the wet season (November-April). As the floodwaters recede, the crocodiles return to their usual habitats. The freshwater crocodile is found only in Australia. In Queensland, they are found mainly in rivers of Cape York Peninsula and the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Estuarine crocodiles are found throughout south-east Asia from India all the way south to Australia. They are found across northern Australia, WA and NTin fresh and salt water habitats. In Queensland, estuarine crocodiles live mainly in coastal waters between Rockhampton and Cape York and throughout the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Although it lives mainly in the tidal reaches of rivers, the estuarine crocodile is also common in freshwater lagoons and swamps and beaches. This crocodile can even be seen in inland waterways hundreds of kilometres from the sea and on Great Barrier Reef islands.
To capture prey, both types of crocodile wait in ambush at the waters edge and then lunge or snap sideways at animals which come to feed or drink. Another method is dragging prey underwater, and then twisting it in a death-roll until it dies or disintegrates.
While crocodiles are killed in other countries for their skins, Australias two species of crocodiles are protected. In Queensland, interfering with crocodiles or their eggs and possessing or taking parts of crocodiles are illegal without a licence from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
Unprovoked attacks by a freshwater crocodile have never been reported. But dont be fooled. These are wild animals and may inflict a nasty bite if provoked.
Estuarine crocodiles, on the other hand, are dangerous. Be careful throughout central and north Queensland, WA and NTat rivers, swamps, billabongs and when swimming in the sea. They are large, efficient predators which can kill or seriously injure people. Their bite can easily crush the bones of a pig or buffalo.
Editors note: GoSeeAustralia thanks the EPA for their contribution to compiling this feature. Pictures used in this feature are from the GSA picture library and are typical of the NT wetlands and Melville Island.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which includes the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), is a department of the Queensland Government. The EPA strives to protect Queenslands natural and cultural heritage, promote sustainable use of its natural capital and ensure a clean environment.
Key functions of the organisation are environmental planning, environmental policy, management of parks, forestry and wildlife, environmental operations, sustainable industries, environmental and technical services, corporate affairs, and corporate development.
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