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Spate of ‘terrifying’ crocodile attacks in Australia sparks fears for safety

3 min read

Australian officials are discussing culling the rapidly growing crocodile population in its Northern Territory in the wake of a vicious attack earlier this week.

Natasha Fyles, the chief minister of the territory, which is almost six times bigger than the UK, said the crocodile population had risen sharply from a mere 3,000 in 1971, when culling was halted, to roughly 100,000-plus in 2023. 

The last fatal crocodile attack in the Northern Territory was in 2018 but on Monday (July 10) a 67-year-old man was brutally attacked as dozens of people swam in the infested waters.

Children were among those enjoying the Wangi Falls swimming hotspot earlier this week when a 2.4m saltwater crocodile was spotted.

A local off-duty policy officer described the “terrifying” moment she and others had to form a circle around the children to escort them safely out of the water. 

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But a 67-year-old man further afield was attacked and badly wounded, suffering injuries to his arms and back. He remains in the nearby Royal Darwin Hospital in a stable condition. 

Natasha Fyles, 45, who leads the Northern Territory’s Labor government, said the growing population of crocodiles, in tandem with this attack, showed that they may need to consider “going back to culling”. 

She said: “I think it’s time for us to consider: do we need to go back to culling, considering that significant increase in the crocodile population and the impact it’s having not only on tourism and visitors, but locals.”

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She described the latest attack from earlier this week as “extremely scary”, adding: “I think everyone in the territory has stories where crocodiles have been more aggressive, have interacted, and when you have a bigger crocodile population, there is more chance that they will interact with humans.”

The Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security on Tuesday confirmed on Tuesday that the crocodile that attacked the man at Wangi Falls, in Litchfield National Park, had been euthanized. 

But, they added, the swimming area will remain closed until surveys confirm there are no other crocodiles.

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Department director Dean McAdam said: “Public safety is our key priority, so please obey all closures and do not enter the water while we are completing the crocodile surveys. 

“We work hard to reduce the risk of crocodiles in the management zones, however, there is always the chance they can move into an area undetected.”

The last fatal crocodile attack in the Northern Territory was in 2018, though there have been a series of maulings that some crocodile experts have attributed to the animals pushing into the outskirts of Darwin.

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