Fears are building today for a missing 12-year-old boy who was struck by a salt-water crocodile in a popular Outback tourist destination in Australia. The boy was one of a group of children who were swimming in Mudginberri Billabong located in Kakadu National Park, nearby Darwin.
The crocodile went first for the boy’s friend and clamped down on his right arm. He was able to escape its grip, but sustained deep laceration to both arms. He has since received medical treatment. When the boy escaped, the animal turned on his friend, dragging him off.
Police have shot down two crocodiles so far, but neither were found to contain human remains. Police and park rangers continued their search for the missing boy throughout the night, but typically when crocodiles strike in this way, chances of survival are low.
Prior to the 1970s, crocodiles were hunted extensively throughout Australia. However federal laws passed in 1971 now ensure their protection. Since then, their populations have increased dramatically, especially in the warmer northern regions.
Kakadu has experienced several other attacks in the past. Last August police were hunting the same waterways looking for a crocodile that attempted an attack on a teenager. A photo was taken two years prior to this latest incident which shows a salt-water crocodile gnawing on a bull shark. The incident was witnessed by a group of tourists on a crocodile cruise in the area. Tour guide Dean Cameron stated that he believed the shark would have been about three metres long and weighing around 60 kilograms.
There are a number of crocodile attacks in Australia each year, a fact of which most tourists seem unaware. Last year a New Zealander had to be rescued from Governor Island, west of Darwin. The New Zealander had been dropped on the island, but soon realized that he did not have enough food and water to sustain him. When he tried to kayak to the mainland, he was prohibited by a six-foot local salt-water croc. He stated that each time he attempted to leave the island, the animal would stalk him and prevent him from passing. The Kiwi was finally rescued by a local two weeks later. The local man had seen a light on the island and decided to check it out.
Crocodiles are promoted as a tourist attraction throughout Kakadu National Park. However the park advises that deaths have occurred due to crocodiles in the past and states all visitors must read the warning signs and keep clear of the waterholes.
Kakadu has no alerts on their page at this time. Salt-water crocodiles are amongst the largest living reptiles and those over two meters long have been known to eat a wide range of animals and shellfish. The official Australian government page on salt-water crocodiles lists the larger specimens as having a diet of a “variety of items including mud crabs, birds, sea turtles, fish, flying foxes, dingoes, cats, dogs, pigs, buffalo, cattle, horses and humans.”
Crocodile strikes are a risk to anyone swimming in the waterways of northern Australia. The search for the missing boy continues today.
By Sara Watson