3 July 2018
'Throw the life vest, then swim the other way ...'
Aggro didn't seem particularly interested in the brace of pork chops dangled in front of his snout. Though he had cared enough to slither out of his comfortable mud on the side of the Adelaide River to join us.
"Come on, Aggro," Steve called again, this time almost bouncing the tasty pork on the croc's nostrils. After a further investigation, swishing his tail to stay with us against the current, he made a rather half-hearted jump at the bait, but failed to win as it was whipped beyond him. Then he simply gave up and disappeared under the boat.
"OK, we'll go and see if one of the others is hungry," our guide said, unfazed at Aggro's lack of commitment. "His loss this time."
Steve knew each of the beasts by name, and pointed out individual characteristics. "That one has lost four inches of his tail, we call him Stumpy." Another had a lower tooth protruding through his upper jaw, having snapped too hard with his five-tonnes closing pressure on something — a pair of teasing pork chops? We came across Mary Jane, who was looking somewhat grumpy about the green praying mantis hitching a ride just back of one of her eyeballs. She sorted that with a quick submergence, then came back and gave Steve some relief by becoming the first to win the porky snacks off this particular tour.
"But we can't just let them keep multiplying," one woman on the boat suggested, reasonably enough.
"Well, they're protected," was the answer. "But about 80,000 eggs are removed from their nests every year." Since only one out of hundreds of eggs laid ever becomes a croc, that is likely to curtail numbers somewhat.
His inevitable addendum joke about 'the occasional tourist and local' adding variety to the crocs' food intake is recognised as just that, since he had told us in his initial briefing that 'more people are killed by sharks in Australia than by crocodiles' … the average is a little over one a year. That said, like sharks, crocodiles have evolved over millions of years to become almost perfect predators.
On the way back downriver there was a sudden thump and judder, and Steve cut the engine. For a few moments we drifted, then the engine restarted and we continued on our way. "A bit of floating log, under the surface …"
But for just those moments, I probably wasn't the only one on board who wondered would we have to take Steve's advice in his briefing, about the life-vests stowed under everyone's seat?
"There's one for everybody," he'd noted. "But crocs are attracted to bright colours, and they're bright red. So, maybe the best thing to do in an emergency would be to throw the life-vest in one direction as a decoy and then swim as hard as you can for the bank in the opposite direction …"
That might even have properly piqued Aggro's interest.