Tough life for baby crocs

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE -

CROCODILE tour guide Mark Nor­man wants peo­ple us­ing the Proser­pine River to be aware that hatch­lings are now emerg­ing and wher­ever there are baby crocs, their much larger moth­ers are sure to be about.

Mr Nor­man said the first of the year’s hatch­lings started emerg­ing about two weeks ago with about 35 ba­bies in the first batch.

“And over the last five days we’ve had about four nests hatch – and in one nest that hatched about two days ago we had a record count of over 70 hatch­lings,” he said.

Mr Nor­man, who has been a tour guide on the Proser­pine River for about 12 years, said while most of the res­i­dent fe­male crocs were about 2.5 me­tres long av­er­ag­ing nests of about 30-50 eggs with a hatch­ing rate of 15-25, this par­tic­u­larly large brood be­longed to a three-me­tre fe­male.

“And that’s a large fe­male,” he said.

“Any­body on the river needs to be very aware that the mother crocodile is present at the site where the hatch­lings are so it’s ex­tremely danger­ous to ap­proach them. In fact, she will most likely be un­der the wa­ter right in front of them.”

On av­er­age, less than one per­cent of hatch­lings on the river will make it to adult­hood, with their sur­vival threat­ened by preda­tors, other croc­o­diles and even man.

Mr Nor­man said one of this year’s first nests had over 30 hatch­lings ini­tially but just one day later only two were left.

“To have a re­duc­tion of that many in a day is very un­usual so the pos­si­bil­ity of hu­man in­ter­ven­tion is there,” he said.

“I’ve heard of peo­ple catch­ing them over the years although noth­ing’s been proved. Any­body us­ing the river just needs to be aware they’re a pro­tected species.”

A spokesper­son for the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Her­itage Pro­tec­tion said there was no ev­i­dence hu­man in­ter­ven­tion was re­spon­si­ble for this most re­cent loss, with the likely sce­nario that the hatch­lings were ei­ther eaten or had swum away.

Hatch­lings will con­tinue to emerge on the river from now un­til the end of next month.

LEAV­ING THE NEST: Two of this year's crocodile hatch­lings sun­ning them­selves on the Proser­pine River banks. Photo cour­tesy Mark Nor­man.

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