The Salt Water Crocodiles of the Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree Rainforest is one of Australia’s greatest natural wonders, promising lush greenery and breath-taking views across the ancient scenery. Amidst it all, there is a plethora of animal life, including the crocodile – perhaps the most magnificent creature in this region.

The crocs that live in the Daintree are saltwater crocs, where the males measure between 5-6 metres, and the females come in at a still-impressive 3 metres in length. In the Daintree River alone, there are thought to be around 70 adult crocodiles, a number that has increasingly grown over the past 30 years. Today, the area is popular for crocodile spotting thanks to its ever-growing number of these ancient creatures, and for its close proximity to Cairns.

You might think it’s dangerous getting up close and personal with these predators in their natural habitat but, since crocodile spotting has been a key activity here since the 70s, the crocs are used to the whir of boats on their waters and crowds gawping at them over the side of the deck.

  • The History of the Saltwater Crocodiles

    Saltwater Crocodiles are one of the oldest creatures to walk the planet. They first appeared over 240 million years ago, which was during the Mesozoic Era, i.e. the time of the dinosaurs. While others have evolved into different shapes and forms, the crocs stuck have stuck to the same structure for the last 200 million years. Many wonders how the crocodiles survive while the dinosaurs did not, with many theories answering them. One of the theories is due to their blood, most particularly how they were cold-blooded creatures. Scientists have discovered the majority of dinosaurs were warm-blooded, meaning they had to constantly eat to fuel their metabolisms while they absorbed heat slowly. During the cold and dark conditions following the Yucatan meteor, many warm-blooded creatures did not survive, whereas the crocodiles could withstand. Another theory suggests it was due to them being freshwater creatures, as rivers and lakes were less impacted by the meteor.

  • They have a strong link with the Aboriginal Community

    The crocs have been a prominent part of Australian culture for centuries and have even been a major part of Aboriginal culture. In the past, these creatures were believed to hold bad spirits, hence why they were banished to the saltwater streams around Australia.

  • Saltwater Crocodiles and Breeding

    The saltwater crocs in the Daintree Rainforest breed during the summer months, also known as the wet season. They lay up to 50 eggs in a compost mound they build themselves and incubate them for around 3 months. The eggs then hatch, producing little 20cm long hatchlings that remain with their mother for a few weeks or months after they are born. Out of all these hatchlings, on 1% of the nest will survive adulthood. The temperature of the eggs will determine the gender of the hatchings. With lower temperatures producing females, whereas a higher temperature results in male hatchlings.

  • Salt Water Crocodiles and Territory

    You don’t want to mess with a saltwater crocodile! They are extremely territorial, and will attack anything they think may be a threat to them, including fish, mammals, other reptiles, and even humans. Being the biggest creatures around, in fact, the biggest reptiles on the entire planet, they usually win the territory fights. Measuring up to 5 metres and weighing close to 1,000kg.

  • Saltwater Crocodiles Feeding and Hunting

    Due to their impressive size, they are marked at the very top of the food chain. But, amazingly, this isn’t the only reason for them being the top dogs. First, their bite is a significant advantage, with around 68 deadly teeth, and the ability to exert two tonnes of pressure with a single bite. They are even known to have a distinctive hunting move which involves their ability to lock their prey in their jaw. This is called the ‘death roll’, which essentially involves the crocs to snatch up their prey in their mouth, and to aggressively roll rapidly in the water to remove the limbs of the prey.

    This is a hunting behaviour the crocs are famous for; the death roll. and involves literally rolling rapidly in the water in order to remove the limbs of its prey. Literally ripping the carcase apart, as the crocodile’s teeth are only built for gripping, and not ripping.

    They can be incredibly sneaky predators, camouflaging themselves in the murky green to brown waters of the tropics, that blends perfectly with their own hide. Despite their size, they can be quick, usually slowly sneaking up to their prey and darting out of the water before anyone can react. Their endurance can also be incredibly grand, swimming up to 900 kilometres in one go, and lasting long periods without any food.

    Sadly, for us, we are on the crocodile’s food menu, with them typically going after smaller reptiles, fish, birds, and turtles. But if a large prey is spotted, including livestock, buffaloes, and yes, humans, these crocs won’t back down. There are many incidences of croc attacks throughout the tropics, with occurrences happening every year. With many tourists and locals swimming or standing nearby unsafe, crocodile-infested waters. Due to the high risk, the region has very strict guidelines for seeing crocodiles. With warning signs and brochures listing the unsafe areas, as well as only professional tour companies allowed to purposely seek out crocodiles.

  • They are Continuously Hunted by Humans

    Back in the early days, these saltwater crocs were hunted almost to complete extinction. Luckily the government put a stop to this in 1871, when they put the crocs under the protected species list. Since then, numbers have begun to rise again, and the crocs there are still breeding successfully year after year. Though today they aren’t at risk of extinction, they are still being illegally hunted for their hide, which is the most expensive hide of all crocodiles. Despite this being a prominent croc-spotting place, experts have described the area as low density because of prolonged hunting over the years.

Check out the Cape Tribulation Tour today.

Also, check out the Swimming Holes of the Daintree Rainforest.

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