Saltwater crocodiles – also called estuarines or salties – are the largest living reptile. They are excellent swimmers and grow to enormous sizes – their mature length can be twice the height of a full grown adult male.
These crocs are incredibly aggressive during the breeding season. Males will fight one another for mating rights and females build nests along the river. She can lay dozens of eggs, and she’ll fiercely guard them until the babies hatch.
Along the Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo, there’s a picturesque oxbow lake filled with flowering hyacinth and flanked with lush rainforest. And at the beginning of the wet season, this area is known to locals as an estuarine crocodile breeding ground.
I recently toured this oxbow lake on an ecotour and had the opportunity to observe a few young salties in the wild.
Estuarine crocodiles can be difficult to spot when they’re in the water – sometimes they’re just the scales of a tail, or a pair of yellow eyes breaking the surface.
But we did find this little fella sunbathing on a log…
Minchu, our knowledgeable wildlife warden from Red Ape Encounters, thought he was probably two months old, and warned us that his massive mother was lurking in the vicinity, at the ready to answer her baby’s stress call.
According to Minchu, some locals report seeing crocodiles over twenty feet in length in these waters. Kinda makes you second guess that refreshing swim, doesn’t it?
The BBC recently reported that salties are “the species responsible for most crocodile attacks on people.” And since these gigantic crocs are opportunistic hunters and will explode from the water with impressive power – it’s best to keep your limbs in the boat.
This reptile species was once nearly eliminated by the leather trade, and it’s estimated there are under 300,000 left on the planet.
Learn more about saltwater crocodiles and plan a trip to Borneo to see them in the wild.
Croc Ganglands is on tonight at 10 PM et/pt on Nat Geo WILD!
Video preview: A cautious antelope slowly dips its head to drink from a seemingly still pond, only to be suprised by a ravenous crocodile.