Saltwater Crocodile – Great Journeys and Extraordinary Power
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The saltwater crocodile (‘saltie’ in Australia) is the largest of all living reptiles, and is a carnivore found throughout Northern Australia (where they are thriving), South Asia and the eastern coast of India (where their populations are variable). They have fewer armour plates on the neck region than other species, and it is noted for its broad body in contrast with other crocodiles. Weight and length can be extremely variable though generally males are sexually mature at around 3.3 metres or 16 years of age, females are sexually mature at 2.1 metres or 12-14 years of age. Mature males can exceed 6 metres and weigh more than 1000 kilos. This species shows great sexual dimorphism. They prefer living in freshwater swamps and rivers during wet seasons, and move to estuaries in the dry seasons. The saltwater crocodile can travel very large distances at sea, and can show up as vagrants in areas where they are not native; during these excursions they are shown to be capable of surviving in cooler waters than they typically prefer. They reproduce during the wet season, and females lay approximately 50-60 eggs above the floodline, which they will defend fiercely; though only a small number survive. Males will compete for the most valuable territories.
The saltwater crocodile is an apex predator that can take nearly all animals that enter their territory; at mature sizes, they are capable of taking down humans, tigers, sharks, cattle and water buffalo; juveniles will eat smaller prey such as crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles, fish and insects. They are able to survive months without food when necessary, assisted by their lethargic natures. They can show explosive speed and power when attacking, and prefer to kill by dragging an animal back into the water and crushing it with their jaw, drawing it, or rolling it (‘death roll’) violently beneath the water; the death roll also breaks bones and tenderises meat, making it easier for consumption. They ingest stones which assist in the digestion and grinding of food. When young, they are predated on by other lizards (and crocodiles), tigers, leopards, raptors and canines. The only threat to the largest of crocodiles are humans. Saltwater crocodiles are possibly more intelligent than lab-rats, can learn difficult tasks, have a suspected complex language ability and can track the migratory routes of their prey. Saltwater crocodile attacks on humans are generally rare, with one or two being reported per year in Australia. Problem crocodiles are usually relocated to unpopulated areas, or zoos. It is now illegal to export crocodile skin.