Freshwater Crocodile

The freshwater crocodile, also known as the Australian freshwater crocodile, Johnston's crocodile or colloquially as freshie, is a species of reptile endemic to the northern regions of Australia.

Unlike their much larger Australian relative the saltwater crocodile, freshwater crocodiles are not known as man-eaters and rarely cause fatalities, although they will bite in self-defense if cornered.

The freshwater crocodile is a relatively small crocodilian. Males can grow to 2.3–3 m (7.5–9.8 ft) long, while females reach a maximum size of 2.1 m (6.9 ft). Males commonly weigh around 70 kg (150 lb), with large specimens up to 100 kg (220 lb) or more, against the female weight of 40 kg (88 lb). In areas such as Lake Argyle and Katherine Gorge there exist a handful of confirmed 4 metres (13 ft) individuals. This species is shy and has a more slender snout than the dangerous saltwater crocodile. The body colour is light brown with darker bands on the body and tail — these tend to be broken up near the neck. Some individuals possess distinct bands or speckling on the snout. Body scales are relatively large, with wide, close-knit armoured plates on the back. Rounded, pebbly scales cover the flanks and outsides of the legs.

Eggs are laid in holes during the Australian dry season (usually in the month of August) and hatch at the beginning of the wet season (November/December). The crocodiles do not defend their nests during incubation. From one to five days prior to hatching, the young begin to call from within the eggs. This induces and synchronizes hatching in siblings and stimulates adults to open the nest. It is not known if the adult that opens a given nest is the female who laid the eggs. As young emerge from the nest, the adult picks them up one by one in the tip of its mouth and transports them to the water. Adults may also assist young in breaking through the egg shell by chewing or manipulating the eggs in their mouths.

Although the freshwater crocodile does not attack humans as potential prey, it can deliver a nasty bite. There have been very few incidents where people have been bitten whilst swimming with freshwater crocodiles, and others incurred during scientific study. An attack by a freshwater crocodile on a human was recorded at Barramundi Gorge (also known as Maguk) in Kakadu National Park and resulted in minor injuries; the victim managed to swim and walk away from the attack. He had apparently passed directly over the crocodile in the water. However, in general, it is still considered safe to swim with this species, so long as they are not aggravated.

Freshwater crocodiles are found in the states of Western Australia, Queensland, and the Northern Territory. Main habitats include freshwater wetlands, billabongs, rivers and creeks. They compete poorly with saltwater crocodiles; however, this species is saltwater tolerant. Adult crocodiles eat birds, bats, reptiles, amphibians and fish, although larger individuals may take prey as large as a wallaby. This species can live in areas where saltwater crocodiles cannot, and are known to inhabit areas above the escarpment in Kakadu National Park and in very arid and rocky conditions (such as Katherine Gorge, where they are common and are relatively safe from saltwater crocodiles during the dry season). However, they are still consistently found in low-level billabongs, living alongside the saltwater crocodiles near the tidal reaches of rivers.