Wednesday, August 27, 2008

beware the ginga!

A sneaky blighter is Crocodylus porosus (the saltwater or estuarine crocodile). He trades on his misnomer by happily living in billabongs ( freshwater) as well as salt water, where he willingly eats hapless tourists should they fancy a swim. Last known tourist death here was in 2002.

By 1971, due to hunting for skins, the species was near extinction and became fully protected. Now there are an estimated 70,000 in the NT and they are moving further and further inland into freshwater rivers and billabongs. The Aboriginals call them 'gingas' and have an instinctive respect that European tourists appear to lack.

In Kakadu the gingas wait for the rainy season and then it is 'access all areas' and they spread over the whole region without challenge. At the start of the dry season the 'crocodile management' team have to find, trap and relocate all itinerants to reduce the risk to visitors. Traps baited with pig legs remain to entice the stragglers, although no guarantees are given that anywhere is ginga free.

Vanessa took us for 2 walks around the banks of the East Alligator river yesterday.We counted 8 large gingas on the opposite bank, and a Ranger informed us cheerily that they estimate that for every visible ginga there are 12 more hidden but in close proximity. So theoretically 96 hidden gingas were lurking.

I am not sure why I am so nervous about them here.We have encountered crocs in east and west Africa, and on the Amazon and I was not overly worried, but walking around here I just feel like adrenaline charged dinner. It may be the vast numbers here, the large amount of cover that the habitat provides, or just the fact that I am more aware of my own mortality as I get older, but whatever the reason these creatures terrify me.

I am not an advocate of hunting creatures to near extinction and never will be, but I do agree that the crocodile looks at its absolute best when polished to a mirror finish with 2 handles and a purse clasp attached!

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