After nearly a decade-long game of cat and mouse, Australian rangers have finally captured the elusive "monster croc" lurking in the Katherine River. The crocodile, affectionately called "big fella" by rangers, was found 19 miles downstream from the tourist attraction Katherine Gorge. A trap was set on private property to catch the giant crocodile, and his capture proves that government-sanctioned removal programs are working.
They caught the crocodile on Monday, and measurements prove that this is the largest crocodile ever caught in the region. Weighing in at 1,300 pounds, the "big fella" is heavier than a grand piano and longer than a small car. According to the Katherine Times, this crocodile may be over 60 years old, putting him near the end of his lifespan.
The previous record holder, caught in 2011, was only 4.6 meters. This crocodile beats that record by 0.11 meters, an impressive statistic considering his size and strength. While there have been larger specimens caught in other areas, this is a record for the Katherine management zone. Saltwater crocodiles can grow up to 19 feet, making them notoriously hard to capture.
Saltwater crocodiles, called "salties" by rangers, are common in Australia. It is estimated that anywhere between 100,000 and 200,000 salties currently reside in Australia. They are protected under the law, but removal is necessary to avoid accidents. About 250 "problem crocodiles" are removed from the area every year.
After capture and removal, they are put in crocodile farms. Some crocodiles have been known to travel great distances to return to their home range, and captivity keeps them from attempting the trip. Because of his size and reputation, "big fella" will likely become a tourist attraction. He is currently being transferred to a farm outside Katherine for safekeeping.
This crocodile isn't the first or last to be caught by wildlife authorities. Other large crocodiles have been trapped in the same river, including two 13-foot crocodiles found in February and March. "Big fella" is the eighth to be pulled from the Katherine River this year, and 188 other salties have been captured in Top End waters.
It's important to remember that rivers are a natural habitat for crocodiles. Keep this in mind when swimming or boating in these areas, and always follow directions given by wildlife authorities. Crocodiles are intelligent, stealthy hunters, and have been known to attack humans.
"Even though it is dry season, crocs are around. They are always moving around regardless of the temperature," ranger John Burke said. "The population is growing. Stay vigilant."