Backyard Buddies
Freshwater Crocodile

Photo: Richard Fischer

Freshwater Crocodile

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It is pretty unlikely that you will find a freshwater crocodile in your backyard but it is not uncommon if you live near their habitat. The freshwater, or Johnstone’s , crocodile, lives in inland creeks, rivers, lakes and swamps across northwest Western Australia to northern Queensland. They are shy animals and not considered dangerous to humans although will bite if you accidentally jump on top of one in a river! They mainly eat fish, crustaceans and insects but will also hunt small mammals, birds, turtles and frogs if their usual food is scarce. If you are keen to have a freshwater crocodile in your backyard, you may live in a state that allows them to be kept but you will need a permit. Check with your state or territory wildlife authority.

Fresh or Salty?

Unlike the big solid head of the saltwater croc, the freshwater crocodile has a small slender head and a long snout and is considerably smaller. Female freshwater crocs grow to 2m and males to 3m but it can take up to 30 years for them to reach that size so most are much smaller.

Its colour can differ depending on the environment but they are generally grey to tan-brown, with dark patches along the sides and top of the body and a creamy white belly. Like all crocs, the nostrils and eyes are on the top of the head and they have razor sharp teeth that are visible even when the mouth is shut.

Their tails make up almost half their length and have large triangular scales known as ‘scutes’ along the top. The hind legs are much larger and longer than the front legs and when resting, the croc holds its limbs tight to the body.

You can make your neighbourhood friendlier for freshwater crocodiles

A big threat to freshwater crocodile habitat comes from chemical and toxic runoff that can pollute the water and affect their food and water sources. By using only natural pest control methods and adding organic fertilisers to your soil, you will be helping keep the crocs happy. Exotic fish species can decimate local freshwater native fish populations, so if you no longer want your aquarium, don’t dump the fish in the nearest waterway. They may wipe out the crocs favourite food!

Simple things that you do can make a huge difference to Australia’s animals. That’s why the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife is running Backyard Buddies— to give you tips to help.

What is a backyard buddy?

Backyard buddies are the native animals that share our built-up areas, our beaches and waterways, our backyards and our parks. The freshwater crocodile is a backyard buddy.

Backyard buddies are also the local people, who value the living things around them, like the freshwater crocodile, and are willing to protect and encourage them by doing a few simple things around their own homes.

So you can be a backyard buddy.

Be a backyard buddy

It’s easy. All you have to do is care... and take a few simple steps.

Step one is to find out what freshwater crocodiles do and do not like.

Freshwater crocodiles love:

Water – fresh natural waterways provides a variety of food sources, a place to hide and breed and a home.

Shallow water – they hunt by lying very still in shallow water and waiting for their prey to come close enough for them to snap them up

But they don’t like:

Garden pesticides – these contaminate their habitat and food sources

Destruction of habitat- this can limit their feeding and breeding options and also increase the distance they must travel overland to get to the next waterway,

Saltwater crocodiles - they are very aggressive towards the freshies and will drive them away from their territory

Be a buddy to the freshwater crocodile

Try to:

Avoid:

Don’t be surprised if:

Find out more about your buddies

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