It is the style of indignant swatting that would be more appropriately directed at a mosquito, not an apex predator.
Local crocodile enthusiast Lyndon Anlezark captured a shocking confrontation between a woman, a dog and a large saltwater crocodile at Cahill’s Crossing on the East Alligator River, in Kakadu National Park last month.
The woman and her dog stood undeterred at the water’s edge as a croc stalked them from the shallows, while horrified onlookers watched from above.
“A lady turns up with a small dog, it sets the instinct off immediately in the crocodile … one crocodile went straight over another crocodile and straight towards her,” Mr Anlezark said.
The dog luckily stayed behind the woman, who managed to spook the crocodile away by clapping a thong against her hand.
“We could have had a death there that day,” Mr Anlezark said.
“You don’t go near the crossing with small children especially, and definitely not with animals at all.”
During a recent survey, rangers counted more than 120 crocodiles in just a six-kilometre stretch of the river south from Cahill’s Crossing.
Despite the obvious threat, crocodile ranger Gary Lindner said he regularly had to warn people not to fish near the water’s edge.
“Thank God [crocodiles] eat a lot of fish, because they could grab a person here every day of the week if they wanted to during peak visitor seasons.”
Kakadu ranger Gary Linder
Senior ranger and traditional owner Jonathan Nadji was a witness to the only fatal attack at the crossing, which happened in 1987.
“I see a lot of stupidity, people not thinking,” he said.
Mr Nadji is among a number of rangers and traditional owners calling for another viewing platform on the western side of the river.
“We can put a platform like this on the other side and also that can be a fishing spot and all that because a lot of people tend to go and fish off the rocks and that’s where a lot of the crocs hang around,” he said.
Croc’s fish feast a ‘spectacle’
Northern Territory ranger Gary Lindner said it was remarkable that crocodile populations had returned to the numbers pre-dating white settlement.
Mr Lindner has worked as a ranger in Kakadu for 30 years, and said there were now between 80,000 and 100,000 crocodiles in the Top End.
Just a generation ago, experts said those numbers had dwindled to less than 10,000.
The now thriving crocodile population presents new challenges at a place like Cahill’s Crossing, where dozens of them congregate at the end of each dry season to feast on fish.
It is a spectacle that is drawing an increasing number of tourists.
“The crocs just put on a totally natural show. You sort of see the croc politics taking place — who’s the boss croc, and all the rest of it.”
Kakadu ranger Gary Lindner
But with extra people, comes extra risk, and already this year there have been numerous examples of people ignoring the threat posed from the animals.
“There is a minority of people that will ignore the dangers and place themselves in a situation where a big, dangerous predator will grab you and eat you,” Mr Lindner said.