If you’re scared of crocodiles, don’t watch this video.
The viral clip shows at least 50 crocodiles lazing on a short stretch of the Daly River — and that’s before you even consider what lurks in the water.
“I just flew the drone and they just kept coming,” fisherman Wade Kelly, who filmed the clip, said.
“I see a fair few crocs around all the rivers up here at low tide on dry season mornings, but I’ve never seen that many all together like that.”
Adam Britton, who specialises in crocodile management, had a slightly different reaction.
“My reaction was, ‘Wow, that looks like a really healthy river system’,” he said.
“They’re basically all sunbaking.”
Wait, crocodiles sunbake?
The reason why so many crocodiles are visible comes down to three main factors.
The tide is low, the ecosystem is in good health, and the dry season has seen minimum temperatures dip to about 20 degrees — sweater weather for locals.
“It gets cold at night so they go into the water; it’s still warm in the water but it’s cold out on land,” Mr Britton said of the crocodiles.
“During the morning, they’ll just come out and wait until the sun comes up and warm themselves up again.”
The low tide means there’s more flat, muddy water for them to laze on.
And they’ve gathered there because the waterway is a veritable buffet, with an abundance of fish alongside any mammals who come to the water’s edge within snapping distance.
“Alligator Head in particular is well known as a really good fishing spot and the crocodiles know this too,” Mr Britton said.
But don’t be fooled, the cold weather means they’re only slightly more lethargic than in the wet season.
They can still move very quickly.
Are they friends?
Most people are aware that saltwater crocodiles can be highly territorial animals.
But in this instance, they’re almost close enough to rub shoulders.
“If you’re going to be territorial, it means there’s something worth protecting, there’s something worth fighting over,” Mr Britton said.
“So in a situation where there’s a lot of food and there’s a lot of space, there’s really no need to be territorial.”
Additionally, Mr Britton said these crocodiles were “relatively small”, or at least smaller than the size range where they had the strength to defend an area.
How to be crocwise
- Only swim in designated areas
- Do not walk at the water’s edge or wade in shallow water
- Avoid predictable activities at the water’s edge — crocodiles learn routines
- Take care when launching or retrieving boats
- Don’t lean over water from boats, overhanging banks or trees
- Be responsible about cleaning fish and discarding scraps
Do they all live there?
For now they do.
As water in smaller floodplains dries up, more crocodiles make their way back into larger waterways.
“What they tend to do is congregate in specific areas where there’s something they want to congregate about,” Mr Britton said.
In this instance, that’s the buffet.
Secondly, that’s not all of them.
“There’ll be more in that actual river itself,” Mr Britton said.
“Most of the time, during the day, you drive down the river and especially if it’s hot, you won’t see any crocodiles because they’re all under water.”
Is it time to cull?
In comments sections, social media users suggested it was high time the Northern Territory’s crocodile hunting ban, introduced in 1971, was lifted.
“Bloody ridiculous. Time for a controlled culling program. Perhaps they could license people to take shooters who pay by the metre for what they shoot.” — Jim Chambers
“Time to cull. I don’t think you can relocate so many. You need some areas that can be used for recreation.” — Leeanne McDonald
But the state of play is more complex than that.
Culling is a contentious issue among people who work or interact with crocodiles regularly.
Some Top End locals say the creatures’ presence has tarnished once-loved swimming spots, while others uphold them as a natural and culturally significant part of the environment.
Mr Britton falls into the latter camp.
“I don’t see why you would want to cull, basically, an indicator that everything is going really great in the Northern Territory,” he said.
“Once food starts running out, then you start getting more competition and that limits the growth of the population.
“We’ve been using common sense around crocodiles for decades and I don’t see why that should change now.”