Photo by David Clode
Estuarine (Saltwater) Crocodile Myths
• Estuarine crocodiles only live in salt water. FALSE … They can be found over 200km from the
coast in freshwater habitats (rivers and billabongs).
• Estuarine crocodiles don’t like fast flowing water. FALSE … Crocodiles have often been seen in fast flowing water and they move through rapids to reach different parts of their territory. They have also been seen in surf.
• Estuarine crocodiles don’t like beaches and you are safe to swim in these areas. FALSE … Crocodiles are often seen around beaches in the Kimberley.
• Crocodiles do not travel up waterfalls. FALSE … They have been seen climbing the rock faces of waterfalls. They will often go around a vertical obstacle like a waterfall to make it to the next pool upstream. The main reason is that young male crocodiles will be trying to establish their own territories.
• Crocodiles will not stay long in small waterholes. FALSE … They can stay for extended periods in very small waterholes and mud holes if they have to.
• Crocodiles don’t move around on land very much. FALSE … Crocodiles have been known to travel on land up to one kilometre.
- Estuarine crocodiles have never been seen here in the past so they obviously don’t live here. FALSE … Crocodile numbers are increasing and therefore are spreading and repopulating areas they would have occupied before nearly being wiped out in the late 60s and early 70s.
- Crocodiles are less active in the dry season so you are less likely to be attacked. FALSE … Crocodiles are opportunistic hunters and will take advantage of an easy feed if presented with one.
- Crocodiles can’t open their mouth underwater therefore can’t attack underwater. FALSE … Crocodiles have a palatal valve at the back of their mouth, which closes and allows them to open their mouth underwater. However, crocodiles need to have their head above water or be on land to swallow food without taking in water.
- Crocodiles in the Kimberley are too well fed to take humans. FALSE … Once again, crocodiles are opportunistic feeders.
- You can outwit a crocodile by running from them in a zigzag pattern. FALSE … Run as fast as you can in a straight line as crocodiles can only manage short bursts of speed when coming out of the water but cannot sustain this for long.
- Crocodiles can swim up to 60km/hour. FALSE … Crocodiles can swim about 10-15km/h on average.
- Crocodiles are sluggish creatures. FALSE … When charging from the water crocodiles have been measured moving at 12 metres per second.
- You’re safe to camp beside the river if you have a fire. FALSE … There is no scientific evidence to support this. Always camp more than 50 metres away from the water and at least 2 metres above the high water mark.
- If you can see the bottom, it’s safe to swim. FALSE … All bodies of water in the Kimberley may have crocodiles present no matter what the depth may be.
- You’re safe in the water when launching a boat because boat noise frightens crocodiles. FALSE … Crocodiles are extremely sensitive to sound and vibration, which in most cases will attract them.
- It’s OK to swim if you don’t stay in too long. FALSE … It takes less than a second to be attacked by a crocodile.
- If you keep a lookout, you will be able to tell if a crocodile is near. FALSE … A crocodile can hold its breath and remain hidden underwater for long periods. They are formidable ambush predators that move with great stealth and camouflage so you won’t always see them.