Australia's Big Crocs

Ron Moon — 23 November 2015

Over recent times there’s been a bit of a flurry on Facebook and, more particularly, on our Remote Australia Facebook page about big crocs.

It started when somebody posted a pic of a big croc – I think I’ve seen the same pic on the wall of the Albion Hotel in Normanton, Qld. Whoever posted it stated that it was shot in 1957, but with the people in the image, it looks more like the photo was taken in the late 1800s or early 1900s.

Still staying on the ubiquitous web, four of the five largest crocs ever recorded around the world, as far as Our Planet is concerned have been recorded in, or relatively close to, Australia.

The biggest ever recorded croc in modern times, which I’ve heard about, came from the Norman River in the Gulf Country, Qld. Measuring 8.63m, or 28ft 4in in the old money, there is a life-size replica of this croc in the main street of Normanton and it is BIG!

This reptile was taken by professional croc shooter Krys Pawlowski in 1957. Later, Krys, who was known for her incredibly accurate shooting, and her husband Ron established the first commercial croc farm in Australia and became leading advocates for the protection of crocodiles in Australia.

So, is there any chance of finding such a big animal remaining in the wild today?

Probably not. Years of commercial hunting and harvesting before the days of croc farms have probably meant that all the biggest crocs have been shot. Still, that doesn’t mean to say another super croc won’t come along. Big crocs are old crocs and with a good amount of food, protection and time, a really, really big croc is always possible.

And Australia is the place for that to happen!

Why? Well, the American crocodile is a mere baby only growing to about 5m (16ft), while the Nile croc (a species of African croc) reaches 6m (19ft) or so in length. Our estuarine or saltwater croc takes the cake as the biggest of all the croc species on the planet today. This same species is also found throughout New Guinea, Indonesia and the Philippines, but a lack of effective protection in those countries means a big croc won’t appear there in the foreseeable future.

Three metre and 4m-long animals are now commonly seen in the wilds of northern Australia, since hunting was banned back in the 1970s. In the 1990s, when I was paddling the full length of a few of the major rivers on Cape York, 3-4m long crocs (they seemed bigger) were seen on every trip. When they approached the canoes, heads out of the water watching us, they scared the bloody hell out of us, too!

The late Steve Irwin and his team once caught what he said was the biggest croc he’d seen, in Cape York. With quite a bit of the animal’s tail missing, the croc still went over 4.8m (16ft) long and would have been well over  5.2m (17ft), if his tail had been intact.

But that’s not the biggest we’ve heard about. In recent years, up on Bulloo Downs in the NT, they’ve been chasing and trying to trap a croc that is at least 5.8m (19ft) long for a couple of years, now. They don’t get that big unless they are smart, so the trackers are still trying.

Also, up on Cape York, there have been a number of sightings of a very big croc, reportedly some 7-8m (23-27ft) in length, on the remote west coast, north of Port Musgrave – that’s a monster!

Maybe we’re not too far off seeing another super-sized croc again in this country. And as long as I’m not in a canoe, that will be fine!


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