Like most things, salted beef looks a little different in Australia... 

During what was meant to be a relaxing day of barramundi fishing on a river in Kimberley, Queensland recently, local resident Justin Lorrimer witnessed an impressive display of crocodilian strength. After watching a sizeable "saltie" drag a cow off a nearby bank, Lorrimer immediately sent his drone to the skies to document the unfolding feast.

While some reports claim this reptile measured in at over six meters, those proportions would put the individual near the top of the charts for its species. It's more likely that we're looking at a smaller, sub-adult cow and a more average-sized croc. Lorrimer himself estimated the animal at closer to five metres, nose to tail. 

Along with his wife Bec, Lorrimer documents his travels on "Trip in a Van", a blog dedicated to exploring the Australian continent. But even for these experienced trekkers, the encounter came as a surprise. 

"This was crazy!" he wrote on Facebook, noting that the crocodile managed to tow its bovine prize about two kilometres before attempting to drag it underwater. "[It was] an amazing display of how powerful these big creatures are!"

Lorrimer's encounter isn't the first crocodilian-cow predation we've seen: last year, police in the Northern Territory wrangled a 4.3 metre beaut after its taste for docile grazers became a problem for local farmers. Over in Florida, meanwhile, an even larger American alligator was recently killed for the same offence

Buffalo, pig and horse are also occasional menu items for crocodiles in Kimberley – but smaller prey like fish, turtles and wading birds make up the bulk of their diets.

The sighting comes at an uncertain time for Kimberley's crocs. The animals were declared locally protected in 1971 after hunting and habitat loss decimated their populations, but a recent survey suggests their numbers are on the rise.

"In the early years we'd count between 20 and 40 crocodiles along 40 kilometres or so of river, and now in some years we are counting as many as 150 animals along the same area," Western Australia Department of Parks and Wildlife biologist Ben Corey told ABC in a recent interview.  

Along with a collaborative team, Corey is working to collate croc sightings in the region to better understand the current status of the reptiles. 

"Over time, we've seen an increase in the number of larger crocodiles as well, so this trend is consistent with a population that's recovering from the brink of extinction," he says.

While this is certainly good news from a conservation standpoint, it's also caused concern among many local residents. The WA Department of Parks and Wildlife has removed over 30 saltwater crocodiles from Kimberley waterways in the past five years alone. Many of these animals were simply relocated, but about a third of them were killed.

Officials face similarly tough decisions in the nearby Solomon Islands, where growing conflict with crocodiles has prompted a controversial proposal to lift a ban on the export of their skins.

To secure a sustainable future for these animals, it's critical that we learn more about population trends, and find ways of minimising human-crocodile conflict. Many recorded attacks in the Kimberley region can be linked to risky and irresponsible behaviour by humans.

In May of last year, for example, rangers trapped a crocodile that had started climbing into boats. Wildlife officials who removed the "problem croc" said it had grown accustomed to being fed from a nearby boat ramp. And just a month before that incident, Kimberley fishermen were seen luring a crocodile towards their vessel (the Darwin Award-worthy move could have landed the pair up to $10,000 in fines):


Most local crocodile encounters play out without incident. Back in August, a saltie peaceably joined a school of lemon sharks circling a boat on a Kimberley river.

We're glad to see that Lorrimer and his fellow fishermen let their drone do the approaching during their run-in with the cruising croc. That said, local wildlife officials recommend keeping aerial cameras high above the water during such encounters. The flying tech could put an animal off its food, and a disturbed or aggravated crocodile can be bad news for your gear:



Top header image: JimTheGiantEagle/Flickr