Sunday, 29 December 2013

15th Dec - Lichfield National Park, Northern Territories - Crocs!

IA day in the great outdoor reptile house known as The Northern Territory, begins with a stop at the Adelaide River for a bit of crocodile spotting.

My new friend here is a Centralian Carpet Python, non-venomous, nor particularly friendly, but would you be?
If you look closely here you too can spot the first crocodile sighting of the day, a small freshie in a little billabong by the side of the road, looking for a bit of breakfast.

So what's the difference between a freshwater and a saltwater crocodile, given that they can both be found in each? The freshies are much smaller and will swim away from you, the salties (more accurately known as Esturine Crocodiles), are bigger, meaner and will swim towards you when you fall in. If you're a fast runner, and good climber, you may get away from them on land, but in the water you haven't got a hope.  
Here's a largish salty about 4-5m long going after a bit of steak for the benefit of us snapping tourists. I know which I'd rather be snapped by. It's using a thrust of it's tail just against the water to propel itself out. The crocs jump like this in the wild, surprising unsuspecting birds on low-hanging branches and the odd unfortunate human. The guides are not shy in relating croc horror stories, people are killed most years by salties. A 26 year-old local guy was taken in August this year, he should have known better, but was partying with friends and made a drunken decision to go for a quick dip. It would be his last.

Ladies and gentlemen look at the size of this monster! It's an enormous, but alledgedly life-size model of the largest croc ever found here, 8.5m long, shot by a local lady in 1957. It could swallow me without even stopping to chew. The largest confirmed salties in the world now are about 7m long.
Here are the very beautiful Florence Falls at Lichfield National Park, a relatively small park a couple of hours south-east of Darwin. No crocs here, probably, but did see some cute rock wallabies jumping about.

Lots of fun was had jumping off increasingly high rocks into the plunge pools here. I got to about 25' before my nerve gave in and time ran out.
Lots more fun swimming in the beautiful plunge pools of Buley Rockhole.
Then, on the way back, a chance to have a closer look at the Cathedral Termite mounds that are extremely common in the country here. The above ground mounds actually represent only a small fraction of the colony size, most of it is subterranean and the towers are used only in the rainy season when the ground gets water-logged. The tallest are constructed up to 7m tall and are as hard as concrete. This mound was actually being used by large ants when we looked.
Many varieties of termites serve the same job as grazing herds - They harvest the grass and store it in the mounds for future use. They're a hugely important part of the eco-system's cycles. Below are the mounds made by magnetic termites, so-called because they arrange their thin tombstone like mounds on a north-south axis to reduce the surface area exposed to the hot sun. Why other types of termite don't adopt this strategy I do not know.

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