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Australian Saltwater Crocodile


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Reading Crocodile Tracks

When entering the habitat of the saltwater crocodile, the chance to read and follow its tracks on land is one of the very few advantages that humans have over this animal. On the beaches, the typical deep footprints with the softer marks of the tail in the middle, are easy to recognise, so long as they are fresh.

Using only a little common sense, it is often not very difficult to read what has been the reason for a crocodile’s movements.

If the animal had walked out of the sea and a little way up the beach and back, it had most probably been sunbathing(pict. bottom left) If it went straight into the bush and there are no return tracks, then it is almost certain for there to be water behind the beach, like a nearby lagoon or even a freshwater source (pict. bottom right). The latter possibility makes it necessary to check the upper beach and the area behind for older tracks before setting up a campsite in the bush. Accidentally spending a night directly on an old path frequently used by large crocodiles can be

connected with a danger. The animals would avoid entering the land out from the ocean then, but if it comes from the other side, and one is blocking its path to the sea – one will be a surprise – and the reaction of the crocodile quite unpredictable. Anyway, saltwater crocodiles do not use their walking ability to hunt on land away from the waters edge or to explore the area. Instead, they only use it to cross over to waters already known to them.     

By the end of the tracks toward the waters edge, it is often possible to calculate the time the crocodile has made the track by using the tidal table. Then one is able to recognise for example, the fact one’s own

arrival on the site has actually disturbed a large animal’s sunbathe, which is not the best beginning of a stay there. 

Additionally, it is also important not to see the tracks on shore as something that shows very much about the crocodiles acting in the surrounding.                                                           In fact it is only a very small part in that matter because their activities in the water will mostly leave no trace visible for us. >

               Copyright © Steffen Pichler / ZEIS Verlag