Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The crocodiles wandering in back yards

By Phil MercerBBC News, Darwin
The crocodile population of tropical Australia has exploded in recent decades. How are people learning to live with the creatures in their back gardens?

From behind a steel fence, a fully-grown adult crocodile - Harold, a heavyweight at 4.6m (15ft) long - peers at me suspiciously.

Despite the security, it is unnerving to be so close to such a fearsome predator, especially one that won't take his eyes off me.

But in Australia's Northern Territory, armour-plated saltwater crocodiles like Harold are thriving in creeks, rivers and swamps.

The species is back to levels not seen since hunting was banned in 1971. As the reptile population has increased, so has the threat to residents and tourists.

Attacks are on the rise. In April, a young Frenchman fought off a 2m (6.6ft) croc that had grabbed him by the head near the township of Nhulunbuy.

Tragically, there's about one fatality each year, and stories abound of near misses and spectacular close shaves.

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