Big croc draws a crowd on Bathurst Island
When a crocodile starts hanging out at your barbeque, you know you have a problem. That was the situation confronting residents at Wurrumiyanga in the NT earlier this year.
Tiwi Island Rangers captured a 4.5 metre monster which was getting a little too close for comfort for the local community.
Willie Rioli Snr, Head Ranger from Tiwi Land Council, said crocodiles were territorial, and this one would have lived nearby all its life. He added that a croc of that size would be aged between 30 and 35 years old.
‘We noticed the croc’s behaviour starting to change a few months back,’ he said.
‘It was coming across the strait from Melville Island more often. It stalked the locals fishing from the beach. ‘It started bumping its snout against the inter-island passenger dinghy service. It was regularly taking the local dogs wandering on the beach. The Traditional Owners asked us to remove the croc when they saw the croc leave tracks around the barbecue in the park at the beach.’
The capture happened on March 13 and involved 3 rangers, 4 regional council staff, a crocodile wrangler named Matt Wright and his two assistants.
‘We used a large steel cage with a gate that shuts when the bait is taken. The trap was delivered by helicopter from Darwin,’ Willie said.
‘The bait was a buffalo carcass that was shot a week earlier. It takes around 4-5 days for the carcass to break down enough to lure a croc into a trap’.
The team noticed the croc in the cage on Melville Island at 8am. After securing its mouth and eyes with tape, it was taken across the strait to Bathurst Island. The whole operation took 4-5 hours.
The croc, a totemic animal in Tiwi culture, attracted a large crowd at Bathurst Island.
‘I’d say there were close to 1,000 people at the beach to see the croc come in, about half the population,’ Willie said.
‘The news spread very quickly about the croc being caught. There was great excitement. Teachers and children from the nearby school ran down to watch’.
The following day, a large boat transported the croc via Darwin to its new home at a crocodile farm in Humpty Doo.
The control and management of the Islands’ crocodile population is an important role of Tiwi Island Rangers. The rangers capture and relocate about 2 crocodiles per year. These activities ensure the safety of community members as they go about their daily activities.