The largest living reptile in the world, the saltwater crocodile - also known as the estuarine crocodile and Australian saltwater crocodile - inhabits saltwater estuaries and freshwater rivers and swamps from Australia north to Southeast Asia. Adult males can exceed 20 feet in length. The species is distinguished by its large head, heavy jaws and set of ridges running down from the eye orbits along the snout.
Unlike its American relative, the American alligator, the saltwater crocodile does indeed eat people on a regular basis, several fatalities and injuries being reported each year. Fortunately, its regular diet is somewhat more mundane. Juveniles typically subsist on insects, amphibians, crustaceans, small reptiles and fish; adults supplement their diet of small prey with turtles, snakes and birds. Some large adults take prey as large as water buffalo and domestic livestock. Territorial males also kill and eat juveniles, contributing to dramatically low hatchling success rates. It is estimated that less than one percent of hatchlings survive to adulthood.
The saltwater crocodile is one of conservation’s more compelling success stories. Populations were decimated in the twentieth century by hunting, the species’ hide being the most valuable of all crocodiles’. By 1971, the wild population in the Northern Territory of Australia had been reduced to five percent of its historical levels. However, strict protections coupled with farms to meet hide and tourism demands resulted in a near complete recovery. By 2001, populations had returned to healthy numbers.May 14, 2012