Friday, March 23, 2012

Croc Spotting

March 23, 2012, 1:09 pm
Croc spotting
DE MG Ranger Andy Reid at the helm on the Ord River. Picture: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

The Ord River snakes behind, flat and steel-grey in the darkening afternoon - slashed by the white wake of the boat.
Beside it, red bluffs pass, fired by the late sun.
This part of the East Kimberley's upper Ord, between Lake Kununurra and Argyle Dam, is naturally inhabited by Johnson freshwater crocodiles. Johnson's crocodile - Crocodylus johnsoni, the freshwater crocodile, the humble freshie - is not aggressive but not completely harmless.
But there has been a report that there may be a saltie here - the bitey estuarine crocodylus.
Department of Environment and Conservation wildlife officer Len Terry and DEC Miriuwung Gajerrong (MG) ranger Andy Reid are here to check, though Len does admit it's rather like looking for a needle in a haystack, on this long, wide stretch of silty river.
And particularly as tourists who see a big croc might think it's a saltie, and report it, when, in fact, it's not.
With Andy at the boat's controls and Len up on the bow, inside a big frame, the river is gently scoured. If they were to spot a saltie, they might come back with a trap (Len says it generally takes between two and seven weeks for a crocodile to be caught), might noose the snout, or harpoon him with small hooks and haul him in. "We use a lot of duct tape," Len says.
We end up not far from the dam as the light dies and then come back slowly, with Len spotlighting for croc eyes and giving instructions to Andy, who's driving in the dark now, with the beam of his torch.
I, of course, am sightseeing, the other chaps are working.
I'm pleased to have spotted three, maybe four, freshwater crocs and ask Len how many he reckons he saw. "A couple of hundred," he says. Of course, once you've got your eye in …
Back at the office the next day, DEC Kimberley regional manager Daryl Moncrieff asks how we went and I tell him about the interesting and enjoyable evening.
Yes, he says, and he can see potential for DEC croc-spotting trips for the public. "We could have the MG trainees and rangers telling people about the crocs and the country." And maybe another idea is born …
But there has been a report that there may be a saltie here.

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