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Australian Saltwater Crocodile


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Observing a multisided Hunter

Watching saltwater crocodiles hunt passes hours easily when on the remote coastline, yet the action is not always as spectacular as one would  probably expect.

Even the larger crocodiles feed mainly on fish, small sharks and mud crabs.

A crocodile that is frequently surfacing, holding its head out of the water is actually swallowing the prey, which can be observed using field glasses.

Saltwater Crocodile

What is happening below the surface becomes clearly visible during a full moon night in clear water on light ground: With its long body often positioned between rocks or other surfaces, fish and other creatures do not realise what is directly in front of them. When swimming along this obstacle they have high chances to end up directly in the mouth of the crocodile, which then has nothing more to do than to snap its mouth shut.

The swallowing then occurs above the surface, with its head tilted back, after which the crocodile often descends back down into its exact former position.

The crocodile in the left picture is hunting for mud crabs that regularly join the waters edge at rising tide for collecting dead animals and other food. In remote areas it will dive near the shore of the creek mouth and -bank searching for these crabs in another hunting method of this multisided predator.

In very remote areas where people are an unusual event, a kayaker cruising in the shallow water close to the beach might come to a surprise in such situation.                                                                                                                                  In the case of an accidental or near-collision an attack as an act of self-defence might not be unlikely. Avoiding shallow waters where possible can be useful preventive of dangerous situations. 

The accidental disturbing of a saltwater crocodile’s favourite hunting ground at the wrong time, would be one of the possible reasons for the animal to behave aggressively toward an intruder on the remote coast.

Most of the crocodiles potential prey lives under the surface and therefore it is not easy to directly detect such a location that might be particular problematic.

General knowledge on the underwater eco-system is an important basis for the identification of signs that reveal potential favourite hunting grounds.

One example is places close to the waters edge where the mullets are concentrating during the night, often along rocks. As they are swimming close to the surface, these fish are easy to detect.       

Quite likely the local crocodile uses such places to hunt this massive fish at least from time to time.

If one recognises to have put the camp in the direct proximity of a very populated mullet-gathering point, it would be better to leave the place.                                                                           >

               Copyright © Steffen Pichler / ZEIS Verlag