CROCODILES AND HUMANS
Crocodile are considered to be sacred and many are kept in temple pools to be worshiped. Still hunters snare for their skins. Crocodile meat is consumed in some countries, such as Australia, Ethiopia, Thailand and South Africa. It is eaten in in pickled form in Cuba and found in specialty restaurants in some parts of the United States. Two restaurants in the Bangkok area specialize in crocodile meat dishes. Many of the customers are Chinese. Crocodile meat is white. Some say it has a light taste like shellfish or lobster: "white, light and tender, surprisingly unfish like."
Crocodiles are easier to spot during the night than the day. Their eyes turn red when a flight is flashed on them. Crocodiles poachers hunt mostly at night. The shine lights into the animal's eyes and spear them or shoot them. On the Liverpool River in northern Australia hunters used to bag forty crocodiles a night by stunning them with bright lights. It is now against the law to hunt crocodiles in Australia.
Steve Irwin wrote in his website: “In the water, crocodiles are impossible to study. It’s very difficult to accurately estimate their size when all you see is a head that looks like a piece of driftwood from a distance. Once a croc basks on a mud bank, he leaves a track which is all the evidence that’s needed to understand the size, density, hierarchy and behavioral patterns of the crocodiles in the area. A track left in the mud is known as a 'slide’. [Source: Steve Irwin’s Crocodile Hunter website crocodilehunter.com ]
Alligators have been fished out the New York City reservoirs but never a sewer. Saltwater crocodile are reportedly very fond of eating dog and according to some witnesses will head in the direction of barking canine. An alligator hunter in Louisiana told National Geographic, that after snagging an alligator on a chicken-baited hook, “It’s like pulling in a log.” That is “until the alligator sees you. Then the battle begins.
Thai crocodile wrestlers perform stunts like reaching down the throat of a crocodiles and sticking heir head inside a crocodile’s mouth. Crocodiles wrestlers say the secret to their trade is choosing the right crocodile: one that hold its mouth open for a long time and are stable and predictable. Trainers use bamboo sticks to control the crocodiles. Animal that don’t do what they are told are whacked on the head.
Many of the crocodile farms in Thailand hire children to perform tricks like sticking their nose in the jaws of a crocodile. One 11-year-old who was famous for kissing two-meter-long crocodiles on the their snout told AP, “Crocodiles cannot be tamed. They have small brains. They attack only when made angry. You must practice moving faster than they do and staying calm.”
Although some species of crocodilians such as the American alligator and Nile crocodile are thriving many other species are having a hard time as humans expand into their traditional habitats. Some species such as the gharial may be extinct in the wild within a decade. The good news is that crocodile are relatively easy to breed in captivity and some species have been successfully released after being raised by humans. In addition, crocodile their populations can quickly rebound if conservation measures are taken as has been the case with alligators in the U.S. and saltwater crocodiles in Australia.
Several species including the gharial, Cuban crocodile, Orinco crocodile and false gharials are in danger of extinction. Crocodiles have been shot as pests, poached for skins and hunted for food. Their swamps have been drained to create more cultivated land. Rivers they live in have been damaged by pollution, overfishing and development.
Mel White wrote in National Geographic, “Species such as the Chinese alligator and the Philippine crocodile have virtually no natural habitat left, squeezed out of their former ranges by agricultural and urban growth. [Source: Mel White, National Geographic , November 2009]
Explaining why endangered crocodiles have not been embraced by animal lovers like pandas, polar bears and elephants, Wayne King of the New York Zoological Society said: "They're not cuddly. They don't have big soulful eyes like seals. Most of the animals the world is concerned with are beautiful, or they tug at your heartstrings. Crocodiles have a toothy leer. They eat dogs...sometimes even people. Who could love them?"**
Many species gave come back thanks to wetlands protection laws, bans on hunting and trafficking of endangered animals. Crocodile farms satisfy the demand for crocodile leather. Mel White wrote in National Geographic, “Species such as the Chinese alligator and the Philippine crocodile have virtually no natural habitat left, squeezed out of their former ranges by agricultural and urban growth. Some crocodilians found in remote parts of the world are not in immediate danger, and others such as the American alligator have made dramatic recoveries. But it remains to be seen how many can endure in a world where their wetland homes are coveted by people from subsistence farmers to golf course designers---and where some species make themselves less than welcome by eating pets and even people. [Source: Mel White, National Geographic , November 2009]
“The main change in recent crocodilian conservation has been the decline in illegal hunting for skins," John Thorbjarnarson of the Wildlife Conservation Society, told National Geographic. It's been replaced by legally managed ranching and harvesting, allowing some species to rebound. "Whereas 20 years ago there may have been 15 or 20 species that were listed as endangered," Thorbjarnarson says, "now there are really only seven, all reflecting the loss of most of their habitat."
Crocodile Skin Industry
Crocodile leather can be made into goods such as wallets, briefcases, purses, handbags, belts, hats, and shoes. In French a company used to make portable bar made of salt water crocodile skin. Crocodile hides sell for between $180 and $360. In Louisiana about 240,000 farm-raised alligators are harvested every year and 34,000 wild ones are killed. In 2008, hides and meat earned the state nearly $60 million.
The French company Hermes is the largest manufacturer of crocodile products in the world, with wallets starting at around $300 and handbags that go for as much as $10,000. Although Hermes and other companies once purchased poached skins most animals used to make purses, wallets and shoes are raised in crocodile farms in places like Thailand, Singapore, China and Papua New Guinea.
The owners of crocodile farms in Australia collect eggs from female nests. "We draw straws to see who collects the eggs," one farmer owner told National Geographic. "You have to carefully put a pencil mark on top of each egg as its sits. If the egg is turned over, the embryo smothers under the egg mass. The person who collects the eggs the doesn't have a stick to push the crocs away, just that bloody pencil."
After the eggs the crocodiles must be carefully taken off so they don't die from stress. After maturing to six-foot animals in about three years the crocodiles are killed, skilled and exported. mostly to Paris. Australia exports about 5,000 skins, worth around $2 million, each year.
Luxury Hermes and Louis Vuitton Crocodile Handbags
Janice Kew and Andrew Roberts wrote in Businessweek, “These days, women of every economic stripe can be seen carrying pricey leather handbags. Not so with totes made of crocodile, one of the most difficult luxury materials to obtain, especially in the pristine condition wealthy fashionistas expect. As demand from the world’s elite surges for the skins, luxury goods companies such as LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Kering, the owner of Gucci, are making acquisitions to secure a supply of the beasts, whose habits make even collecting their eggs a matter of life and death. Keeping crocodiles from scratching or biting each other as you raise them from hatchling to arm candy is another major challenge. [Source: Janice Kew and Andrew Roberts, Businessweek, October 24, 2013]
“Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Gucci are trying to elevate the level of perceived exclusivity of their brands, and exotic-skin products really help,” says Mario Ortelli, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. Such skins make up almost 10 percent of the total revenue for luxury brands’ handbag sales, at least double their share a few years ago, he estimates. The incentive for luxury goods companies, many of which are wrestling with sluggish demand for their most widely available products, is clear: Crocodile handbags can cost more than 10 times similar leather ones.
“An Hermès International Birkin bag, a staple of the wealthy, sells for about $10,000 in leather; the croc version runs about $50,000—with a five-year wait. For those who lack such patience, they’re available used on EBay (EBAY) for as much as $150,000. “There are women who don’t care about money that love the beautiful things,” says Gianluca Brozzetti, chief executive officer of fashion house Roberto Cavalli. “Demand for crocodile and alligator is large because I think it is one of the trends that never ends. It is a classic.”
Crocodile's Journey From Farm to Prada Handbag
Janice Kew and Andrew Roberts wrote in Businessweek, “Although saltwater porosus crocodiles can fetch higher prices, freshwater Nile crocs found in Africa aren’t as territorial or aggressive—although they’re hardly friendly. “If I’d known how hard this business was before I’d got into it, I may not be here today,” says Stefan van As, a former investment banker and owner of South Africa’s Le Croc breeding farm and tannery, which sends about 5,000 Nile crocodile skins to Europe each year. [Source: Janice Kew and Andrew Roberts, Businessweek, October 24, 2013 ]
Cow-leather hides are a byproduct of animals raised for beef. For a crocodile farmer, it’s the skins that pay the bills. (Some people consider croc meat a delicacy, but growers such as Van As simply feed it to the other animals.) An average handbag can be crafted from as few as two skins, for which Van As gets as much as $600 each.
While cows can ruminate for hours on their own in a meadow, from the moment a crocodile hatchling snaps its way out of the egg, Van As has to provide a calm environment to keep the critter from getting restless and damaging its hide. So the reptiles have their pens cleaned daily and are kept on a strict feeding schedule. They dine mostly on chicken and vitamin-fortified oils to improve their skin. All this care promotes growth, reduces stress, and helps keep the contented crocs’ jaws off each other. “The bottom line is that one cannot expect to harvest a first-grade skin from an animal which has been abused,” Van As says.
Nile crocodiles grow to about 16 feet long and weigh up to 1,500 pounds, or about two-thirds the size of the biggest porosus. And they’ll eat almost any prey that ends up in the water. Van As says a rival farmer was killed after falling in. “These are prehistoric animals that rely on instinct to protect themselves,” says Loic Bellet, a marketing executive at Via la Moda, which makes crocodile handbags in Johannesburg. “Obtaining a perfect skin is not easy.”
To protect the belly—the best part for bags—the slaughter, skinning, and even some of the tanning process at Le Croc are done by hand. At about three years of age, when they weigh roughly 50 pounds and are about 6 feet long, the animals are slaughtered. Van As carefully stuns his crocs twice, then cuts the nape of their necks and scrambles their brains with a needle. Some farmers are less gentle, Ben Williamson, a spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said in an e-mail. This “often results in the crocodile enduring multiple blows, leading to a slow and painful death.”
To help avoid slaughter of wild crocodiles, each skin needs a certificate proving it’s not in violation of international protocols protecting endangered species. Thanks to the success of farming, which yields higher-quality skins, crocs no longer face extinction. LVMH in February bought an Australian crocodile farm for $2.5 million to assure a steady flow of the animals. The following month, Kering bought tannery France Croco, a Normandy-based operation specializing in the sourcing and processing of crocodile skins for makers of leather goods. “It’s complicated to buy exotic skins,” says Jean Cassegrain, CEO of luxury house Longchamp, which sometimes purchases croc skins from rival luxury houses. “The supply is very limited.”
Crocodile Farms in Thailand
Thailand is a leader in crocodile farming. In the 1990s there were more than 200 crocodile breeders in Thailand, most of them on the central plain provinces of Uthai Thani, Nokron sawan, Chainat, Prachin Buri, Chonburi and Sumut Prakarn. The largest crocodile farm in Thailand, in the Samut Prakarn province near Bangkok, has 30,000 crocodiles.
There is a Thai saying, "Don't feed the tiger cubs, don't feed the crocodiles." But a crocodile breeder named Amorn Chittapinichmat told Reuter "but these days people feed crocodiles can become millionaires." Amorn has a laboratory in his house for incubating and hatching crocodile eggs, which are kept on long trays. Finger-length crocodiles hatch after about 10 weeks and after six weeks are moved to tanks on the roof which hold more than 400 reptiles less than a year old. After the crocodiles are a year old they are moved to large ponds on the banks of a river.
In the 1990s Amorn had about 1,000 crocodiles in his pond, which range in length from two to four meters. New born crocodiles are worth about $88, but a mature seven- to ten-year-old between two and three meters in length can fetch $1,600 to $2,000.
Most of the crocodile skins are shipped to Europe where they are made into belts, purses and shoes. The meat is exported to Asian countries, especially ones with a large Chinese population that consider crocodile meat a delicacy and the ground up skull and teeth are used in medicines. Dry crocodile meat sells for about $120 a kilo and a crocodile belt goes for about $100.
When 300 crocodiles escaped from their farms during a period of heavy flooding in 1995, the government offered a bounty of $120 for each captured animal. A special task forced code named "Kraithong 1,2 and 3" after a famous mythical Thai hunter asked people to kill the animals only if they resisted arrest or were more than three meters long.
Crocodile Farms in China
In the mid-1990s, China's forestry department eliminated duties on the import of breeding crocodiles as way of develop a crocodile leather and meat industry to provide jobs for farmers losing their land. Over the past decade China has imported tens of thousands of crocodiles from Thailand, accompanied by Thai handlers, to get the industry going in southern China.
The crocodile industry in China has suffered a number of setbacks. The crocodiles from Thailand have had trouble adapting to the slightly cooler temperatures of southern China and often don't like the food that is served them. The biggest problem is that the males tend to overeat and become sluggish in the autumn and winter and have no interest in sex when the breeding season rolls around in the spring. Success in crocodile farming means having lots of breeding crocodiles producing new sources of meat and leather.
The cool temperatures at night make the crocodiles more likely to get sick and paying for antibiotics and other medicines and injecting them as they sit in pools is expensive and labor-intensive. The crocodiles also didn't like the ducks and fish from local ponds they have been given. They prefer more expensive chicken. To make matters worse the Thais who sold the Chinese the crocodiles slipped in a lot overaged males and females who were too old to reproduce.
Crocpark Guangzhou is the world's largest crocodile farm with 60,000 to 70,000 animals. In 1997 and 1998, taking advantage of low prices caused by the Asian financial crisis, it bought 40,000 crocodiles for as little as 75 cents a piece. The crocodiles, ranging in size from a few centimeters to six feet, filled the holds of five 747 cargo jets. The park loses money because it can't get the crocodiles to breed. To make money it has opened its doors to tourists who pay $1.25 for a bamboo pole with two chicken torsos attached to them to feed to the crocodiles.
Trapping Wild Crocodiles
On how to trap a wild crocodile, Steve Irwin wrote in his website: “Since before I can even recall childhood memories, Dad and Mum involved me in their wildlife pioneering days, back in the mid to late 1960s. In fact, Dad allowed me to jump out of a perfectly good boat to capture my very first crocodile when I was nine years old. That was the start of a very lengthy career capturing, relocating and rescuing crocodiles. [Source: Steve Irwin’s Crocodile Hunter website crocodilehunter.com ]
During the early 1970s, Dad (Bob Irwin) was very concerned about the 'shoot-on-sight' attitude towards crocodiles and decided that he needed to commit time and money to conserving Australia's number one predator. The mid 1970s was a monumental period for Australia's crocodiles as legislation was established to fully protect both species, and Dad and myself (barely a teenager) spent many moons catching and translocating crocodiles caught up in the rapid human encroachment on the east coast of Queensland. Throughout our early croc-catching endeavours we utilized every known capture technique.
During the 1970s we used our knowledge and good old Aussie outback innovation and developed the soft mesh trapping technique which to this day is not only 100 percent effective, but also grants the trapper a wealth of knowledge about the crocodiles habits, sizes and demeanours within the territory being trapped.
Surveying the banks of the waterways for slides, claw marks, and imprints will determine the whereabouts and habits of large crocodiles. Once the crocodile's territory is determined, a suitable trap site should be located, preferably within 50m (164ft) of the crocodile's preferred haunt. Crikey, we’ve come a long way in our croc trapping technology since 1980. Australia Zoo’s International Crocodile Rescue allows me the freedom and engineering expertise to design, build, trial and utilize the most advanced trapping techniques in the world.
To date, my most successful crocodile trapping mission was in Weipa during August 2004, when we caught 33 adult Saltwater Crocodiles in 14 days. These were all documented in our current crocodile research project titled ‘Crocs in Space’. Australia Zoo is working with the Environmental Protection Agency and the University of Queensland in carrying out the most cutting-edge croc research in the world. Another recent testimony to the highly efficient capture of designated problem crocodiles, was the capture of 'Digger' in the Gulf of Carpentaria in one hour in total daylight. The croc was trying to get in the trap whilst Stuey was still setting it.
I use three distinct trapping methods: 1) Soft mesh trap; 2) Gate trap; and 3) Floating trap. All three methods require highly trained and skilled people to set them up, place them in the croc's territory and extract and restrain the captured crocodiles.
Soft Mesh Crocodile Traps
Steve Irwin wrote in his website: “Up until the 1990s this is the only trapping method I used. The most important thing with soft mesh traps is the amount of knowledge you need to set the trap and the amount of knowledge you learn about the crocs in the area you're trapping, whilst your trap is set. Soft mesh trapping provides the trapper with an intimate understanding and awareness of the entire ecosystem. [Source: Steve Irwin’s Crocodile Hunter website crocodilehunter.com ]
A good location for a soft mesh trap is a gently sloping to flat graded bank. It needs a solid tree with a branch height of 6m (20ft) that's capable of easily handling 400kgs (881lb) of force, within 10m (33ft) of the trap site. The trap can be set on land within 5m (16ft) of the water; in shallow water up to 1m (3ft) in depth; or below the high tide mark so that as the tide comes in and the trap is semi submerged, water level should not exceed 1m (3ft) in height, otherwise there is a risk the trapped crocodile could drown.
The mesh used for the trap is a cod end off a scallop trawl net with a 16 tonne rating. The mesh dimensions are 50mm x 50mm (2in x 2in) in nylon cord no less than 5mm thick. The trap dimensions are determined by the size of the crocodile to be captured. In the set position, a crocodile must be able to enter the trap without touching the side or roof. Dimensions for a trap designed to capture any sized crocodile in excess of 12ft (3.6m) would be 4.8m long x 1.5m wide x 0.9m high (16ft x 5ft x 3ft).
To set the trap, a trap site is cleared, the trap unrolled, short sticks are cut and driven through the mesh along the bottom on each side (this anchors the trap to the ground, ensuring an entering crocodile won't get caught up in any loose mesh on the floor of the trap). Mud and leaf mould can be scattered on the floor to help create a more natural substrate and assist in holding down the trap's shape.
Sticks are then cut at approximately 1.5m (5ft) in length and driven down each side of the trap, approximately 500mm (1ft 6in) apart. The top/roof and sides are then tied to these sticks with a single hemp string. The string must be of a light breaking strain, such that a thrashing crocodile would easily break them, but also strong enough to support the trap. Once all the stick and string supports are in place, the trap should sit in an even, rectangular shape. A 12mm (1/2in) silver rope is woven through the mesh at the entrance/mouth of the trap, then threaded through a spliced loop on the end of the rope, to create a lasso/drawstring effect.
The end of the trap is secured by weaving 12mm (1/2in) silver rope through the end meshes, pulled constricting style until all the mesh pulls together, then tied off securely to a large tree or object which a large crocodile could not dislodge. This is the anchor for the entire trap and must be secured, with no chance of fraying or breaking of the rope or dislodgement.
One or two (depending on crocodile size) bags filled with 50-100kg (110-220lb) of dirt, sand or mud, are hauled up at least 6m (20ft). This is achieved by attaching a 20mm (3/4in) steel ring, 200mm (8in) in diameter to a tree or branch above 6m (20ft) in height. A rope, long enough to reach from the suspended bags to a trigger mechanism, is attached to the weight bag leaving a 2m (6ft) tail on the attaching knot. Once the weight bag is handed up to the trap ring, the tail is tied off to the ring, tree or branch. This holds the suspended bag whilst a suitable trigger mechanism is constructed.
Catching a Crocodile in a Soft Mesh Crocodile Trap
Steve Irwin wrote in his website: “To trigger the trap, a 6mm (1/4in) silver rope (bait rope) is attached to a bait then passed directly and tautly through the back of the trap to the trigger mechanism. A spliced loop on the end of this rope slides over the trigger rod. Any jerking or pulling of the bait will now dislodge the trigger rod, setting off the trap. A trap should never be baited unless the trapper is totally prepared for a capture. At the trap mouth, barricades of logs, sticks and branches should be placed so the crocodile cannot get down the side of the trap. This eliminates the common problem of a crocodile setting off the trap from the outside. [Source: Steve Irwin’s Crocodile Hunter website crocodilehunter.com ]
Always trigger the trap and re-set. This is critical to ensure the trap works effectively. If a crocodile escapes from an ineffective trap or triggers it from the outside, the crocodile may become TRAP WISE from a negative experience and NEVER be caught. A lead-in bait should be placed approximately 1m (3ft) in front of the trap entrance/mouth. This is constructed of a strong nylon cord (2mm) attached to a stick or branch. A fist-sized morsel of food is secured to the cord so that the crocodile gets a taste for the bait and perhaps leaves a set of tracks at the trap site so the crocodile's size can be determined.
During the night the crocodile enters the trap, grabs the bait which dislodges the trigger, the bag is released pulling the trap mouth closed. Once it realises it is trapped the crocodile tries to get out. The hemp strings break and the trap is loose around the croc. The sticks, which supported the trap, will be broken and knocked around without causing damage to the crocodile. No steel or damaging materials are used anywhere around the trap, sticks only.
The trap should be checked at first light. If a crocodile has been caught, a top jaw rope is secured and a blindfold is slid over the crocodile and trap. The head is then secured by tying ropes around the blindfold; this in turn secures the jaws together. Move the crocodile to an area where it is safe for it to be removed from the trap. Remove the crocodile from the trap and place it snugly into a crate ready for transport.
The beauty of soft mesh traps is utilizing the tools around you. A long skinny stick is perfect for securing top jaw ropes. If the croc bites it he won’t hurt himself and I can quickly replace it. I’ve been top jaw roping, restraining and transporting crocs on my own since the dawn of time. Only the most experienced crocodile professionals are allowed anywhere near the croc. They can kill you through the trap, and constantly try to do so.
Gate and Floating Crocodile Traps
Steve Irwin wrote in his website: “The gate trap is simply a modified version of the soft mesh trap. Instead of a weight bag and drawstring the trap utilizes a metal gate. The gate slides shut as soon as the croc attacks the bait at the back of the trap. It’s a soft mesh trap with a gate on it. The simplicity of the gate system means this trap is set up in half the time of setting up a traditional soft mesh trap. The downside is the clumsiness and bulkiness of the gate in the boat and through the mangrove mud. They work brilliantly on harder riverbanks and sandbars where there is no chance of the gate sinking into the grease-like mud. [Source: Steve Irwin’s Crocodile Hunter website crocodilehunter.com ]
The crocodile enters the open gate and moves towards the bait at the back of the trap. When the croc strikes the bait, the gate shuts behind it. Restraint and removal of the croc from the trap is exactly the same as a soft mesh trap.
I designed and engineered my first floating trap back in the year 2000. Over the years we continue to tweak and modify my design to ensure we’re constantly evolving with our increasing trap knowledge. My current floating traps have been nicknamed ‘Floaters’ and they are unbelievably successful. They’ve never missed, never failed and constantly floor us with their record-breaking success. They're constructed of aluminium for light weight and salt resistance, and stainless steel for durability. A sliding gate is propped up via a pin at the front of the trap. The crocodiles virtually swim straight to the bait at the back of the trap. As they strike the bait the gate slides shut.
Floaters have several benefits: 1) No access to land is required; 2) The trapper simply tows the trap to the location with a boat; 3) The crocodiles swim straight in; 4) The crocodiles can remain submerged in the trap for long periods without stressing and; 5) Releasing an unwanted crocodile is as simple as opening the gate.
Restraining and Controlling a Crocodile
Steve Irwin wrote in his website: “The simplest and quickest way to restrain a croc is to jump on it and hold it down. The amount of people power required is directly proportioned to the size, aggressiveness, fitness and stamina of the each croc. If you don’t, or can’t, control the head you will be maimed or killed. Once the croc has been jumped and successfully pinned down, no one gets off, or backs off. If a croc thrashes and someone backs off, a gap will turn into a weakness, and then the hold-down team could be in danger. If you give a croc an inch it will rapidly turn it into a mile. [Source: Steve Irwin’s Crocodile Hunter website crocodilehunter.com ]
Muddy crocs are slippery crocs and are dangerous crocs. I’ve spent half my life catching and restraining muddy crocs on my own. Although it looks hellishly dangerous (well, actually it is hellishly dangerous) it's safer because I don’t have the worry of someone slipping off or losing grip. On my own I can sense what the croc is going to do and therefore stay one step in front. If I sense a death roll coming, I’ll jump straight off a big croc, wait, then go in again. Crocs explode, tire, build up, and then explode, so I work in between explosions. However without a top jaw rope, any croc over 7 feet is gonna be impossible to work on my own. With one or more top jaw ropes attached to a tree, I’ve cut down the chance of the crocodile being able to reverse under me. Taking away one direction that the crocodile could go gives me the ability to come from that direction and work the croc.
The easiest place to restrain crocodiles is on nice dry sandy banks. When I’m trapping crocodiles I’m always on the lookout for dry, sandy, open areas close to the water. There’s little or no risk of a crocodile breaking free which makes it very safe for the hold-down team. I can quite easily handle a 10-footer on my own on a nice sandy bank.
Tackling a crocodile in the water is easily the most dangerous of all. Crocodiles can develop twice the power by utilizing leverage from the water; they also have twice the speed and are mostly invisible. Without a top jaw rope even a smallish crocodile would kill me easily. It’s virtually impossible to get away from a croc in the water – you’re in their territory, and they’re the masters. Once that huge, powerful, rudder-like tail hits the water the crocodile has doubled his strength and doubled the danger element. I only ever tackle crocs in the water if there is absolutely no alternative.
Wrestling a Trapped Crocodile
Steve Irwin wrote in his website: “A trapped crocodile is towed to a workable bank. The trap is dragged up so that the croc is exposed. The gate is opened providing excellent access to a very, very angry crocodile just waiting to chomp. A long stick is used to set one, two or three top jaw ropes. I set the first one right behind those massive eye teeth, so there is no chance of it slipping off. Safety, strength and maneuverability are essential so I set my second top jaw rope. This crocodile is particularly aggressive so I set a third one enabling us to pull him out with total safety. [Source: Steve Irwin’s Crocodile Hunter website crocodilehunter.com ]
Crocodile extractions are deadly dangerous. As soon as we start to pull the big croc out he goes into a series of violent death roles. The crocodile death roll is potentially the most powerful killing mechanism on earth. Once he tires a bit from his death rolls, the team and I are ready to jump him. Once secured the croc is quickly blindfolded.
In wet, greasy, muddy situations, all the people that can fit on the croc won’t hold it. Greasy crocs are unrestrainable with people power. The mud is over waist-deep and extremely slippery. I’m better off working on my own; it’s less risky for everyone, except me. I’m easing myself towards this 13-footer's head, hoping he doesn’t death roll. Once at his head I have to avoid any part of my body going forward around those teeth. From here I can secure his jaws without being chomped.
Notice how I constantly keep my hands on the croc sensing for a buildup. I’m ready to move, I know that straight after the build-up comes the explosion of power and deadly chomps. Using my body and hands I try to keep his eyes shut. This croc’s head weighs the same as my whole body. I’m tugging on a small rope trying to get him to death roll. If he death rolls, that will be my queue to jump him. This croc is 12’ 3” but I’ve already got two good top jaw ropes on. As he recovers from the death roll I jump him from behind. My target is right at the base of his head. If I can’t control that head, I’m gonna be in trouble. I pull his head hard up onto my chest and lock on.
Once the head is secured I stop him from death rolling by using my legs to hold up his. Note my back legs holding up his back legs so he can’t get pressure to death roll me off. The whole time I’m mindful of head control. Their bottom jaws are the perfect shape for gripping.Once the croc is ready for release I place a quick release rope around the jaws making it safer for me to jump off. The release rope is a safety rope so I can dismount the croc without it swinging around and nailing me. Now that I’m clear, Josh will simply flick the rope off and the croc is free to leave.
Ideally I’d like to get at least one more top jaw rope on this croc before I jump him. Strike! Luckily he bites the mangroves and not my legs. I’m waiting, sensing when the croc is tired enough for me to make my move. NOW! Two top jaw ropes and now I’m going for a blindfold.Ropes and blindfold set. “Hey Barry, get the boat over here!" Right now is when it’s good to have a very reliable mate.
While I control the head Barry launches himself onto the tail. This croc is 12 foot plus, and there’s no way we’ll lift his massive body into the boat. Here’s a lucky break. He death rolls, which enables us to get him in the boat. Have a look at the blood on Barry’s arms. As the croc rolls, his teeth rip into Barry’s skin. He’s so heavy he sinks the side of the boat. GOTCHA! Once in the belly of the boat I should be able to hold him down. Job done!
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: National Geographic, Natural History magazine, Smithsonian magazine, Wikipedia, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, Top Secret Animal Attack Files website, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, The Economist, BBC, and various books and other publications.
Last updated May 2014