Calls for a cull of the Saltwater crocodile population in the Northern Territories (Australia) are growing after two fatal attacks on children within the last month. Such a cull could prove to be counter productive and ironically, lead to an increase in crocodile attacks on people. Biologists are aware that large crocodiles set up territories and are very aggressive towards others of their own species, a cull of big Saltwater crocodiles could result in one of the natural controls of species numbers in the wild, predation by other crocodiles, being removed.
This in turn, could lead to a population increase as more of the reptiles reach breeding age, thus increasing the likelihood of crocodile attacks. Crocodiles have been around for a very long time, the extant crocodiles of today can trace their ancestry back to the age of dinosaurs, indeed the Crocodilian group evolved before the dinosaurs evolved.
Two children were killed in separate incidents over the last four weeks. In the first, a seven-year-old girl was eaten by a Saltwater crocodile at Gumarrirnbang outstation. In the second attack, which took place at Port Bradshaw in East Arnham Land, a nine-year-old boy was grabbed and dragged under the water. The crocodile was attacked by spear fishermen, but they could not force the crocodile to let go of the child and the four-metre specimen disappeared into deeper water taking its victim with it.
It is believed that some locals had been in the habit of feeding a large crocodile, behaviour that police authorities condemned. Such instances are indeed a tragedy and there have been a number of vociferous calls for a cull of these large predators. Fatal attacks remain rare in Australia, Saltwater crocodiles are responsible for a virtually all of the attacks, although it is a mistake to think that the smaller Australian crocodile (Crocodylus johnsoni) is not aggressive, this species has been known to attack swimmers too, especially in the crocodile’s breeding season when the males in particular are extremely aggressive.
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