Sunday, September 28, 2008

Crocodile Attack!!

(Warning: not for the light hearted.)

Last night on Crab Island a crocodile attack occurred. We discovered the aftermath this morning on the northern beach. The attack was brutal and a reminder of the power of a saltwater crocodile. The poor adult female flatback had most likely nested and was returning to the sea before being grabbed by a crocodile in the shallow water. The 200lb turtle’s shell was split in 2. Her carapace had huge crocodile puncture marks and had been crushed. All her limbs and her head were severed. It was upsetting to see but clear evidence of crocodiles predating on adult sea turtle. This is one of the only places in the world where crocodiles feed on sea turtles on a regular basis – or so we are discovering.

In fact this is not the first crocodile attack we have witnessed on this trip. We have found clear evidence of at least 6 other turtles being attacked. Three of these were identified by tracks and blood on the sand. Generally the adult females were returning to the water and at the same time crocodile tracks appear from the surf and intersect the turtle track. At this point there are scuffle marks and blood in the sand, and then no turtle marks (indicating the crocodile is carrying the turtle), drag marks or retreating turtle tracks (indicating an unsuccessful attack, though the crocodile may have attacked again in the water).

Another turtle we found had had her head crushed, and clear signs of crocodile teeth marks, but still nested ok. Another 2 we found with a piece of their shell dangling and fresh blood. A large percentage of turtles which nest show signs of older attacks, whether by sharks or crocodiles. Many girls are missing flippers, parts of their shells and have bite marks. Many still nest despite the fact that they don’t have 2 rear flippers to dig an egg chamber. Many still drag themselves out of the water even though they are missing a front flipper. They are tough girls and it is amazing the injuries they can survive.

*tracks and blood showing a crocodile attack on an adult sea turtle (crocdile track is in front of Kelsey)

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