Crocodiles Put Australia Rangers on High Alert
SYDNEY A record number of crocodiles in Australia's famous Kakadu National Park, and larger more aggressive saltwater crocodiles, have put rangers on high alert as the giant animals attack boats and bite outboard motors.
Crocodiles have been a protected species in the Northern Territory since 1971 and their number has now grown to around 70,000 saltwater crocodiles, up from 3,000 some 30 years ago.
A 56-year-old fisherman was attacked in Kakadu in March when a four-metre (13-ft) crocodile jumped onto his boat and bit him on the head, park rangers said. The man survived with grazes and puncture wounds to his left arm and head.
"The number of crocodile incidents has increased," Kakadu National Park Ranger Garry Lindner told Reuters on Thursday.
Lindner said there had been reports of crocodiles attacking "boats, bumping them, biting the outboard, or coming up and biting the landing nets out of people's hands".
"We have got to be prepared on a daily basis for an incident even though they might only occur every now and then," he said.
There have been only two recorded fatal crocodile attacks in Kakadu, 250 km (155 miles) east of the tropical city of Darwin. In 2002 a German tourist was killed while swimming in a waterhole. The other fatal attack was in 1987.
Each year more than 170,000 people, many foreign tourists, visit Kakadu National Park, a 20,000 square kms (7,700 square miles) world heritage listed park famous for its wetlands, crocodiles and ancient aboriginal culture.
The Northern Territory's recent wet season had raised water levels allowing crocodiles to spread into previously safe waterholes.
Twin Falls, an iconic part of Kakadu which attracted some 200 tourists a day last year, has had its plunge pool at the bottom closed.
"It was just too dangerous, in some sections it was just too deep, and you couldn't guarantee that it'd be 'saltie' free all year round," said Lindner.