Can crocodile eyes help control feral pigs in Australia’s tropics?

by | Apr 8, 2024 | Wild Top End, Wildlife News

Crocodile eyes are amongst the most sophisticated of all animals Janine Duffy

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Encounter between a crocodile and a feral pig leaves us stunned by the power and speed of the predator. We’re left wondering if crocodiles can play a role in controlling feral pigs. In PART TWO we’ll look deep into crocodile’s eyes and explain how they work.


Supercharged Crocodile vs Puzzled Pig

Click here to see video of a huge crocodile at the end of this story

Crocodile eyes : “super” organs for hunting pigs

To humans, crocodile eyes lack expression. They appear unfocussed, without depth or emotion. Yet within that “cold” stare is a skillset that places crocodiles amongst the world’s top apex hunters.

Those eyes also make the crocodile one of our most useful allies in removing feral animals.

In the Top End of Australia they use these “super” organs with spectacular efficiency to bring down anything from snails to buffalos.

A favourite meal is a big fat boar.

Although that’s good news for Australia’s native animals and plants, these crocs have an enormous task ahead of them if they are to win the battle against feral pigs.

Making that even more difficult is another battle: persecution by humans.

Yes, crocodiles do their bit to keep pig numbers down but they need our help. I’ll come back to that in PART TWO of this story.

But first, let’s join a croc on a pig hunt.

Pig hunt : all we saw was the crocodile’s eyes.

My first experience of the power, skill and sheer cunning of an Estuarine Crocodile* was in the tropical “Top End” of Australia on the vast floodplain of the Mary River, two hours east of the city of Darwin. (*the Estuarine Crocodile is the same species as the Saltwater Crocodile: Crocodylus porosus)

As the tropical sun dropped into the nearby scrub, my tour group had stopped near a large billabong (waterhole) to enjoy sundowners.

Sundowners crocodile eyes Australia safari vehicle
Sundowners on the Mary River floodplain near our open safari vehicle Echidna Walkabout

We’d just finished setting up drinks and nibbles near a small clump of pandanus when our local host pointed out an enormous feral pig rooting about in the mud that sloped gently down into the billabong.

Near where he was pointing I noticed a slight disturbance in the water about thirty metres from the pig. With my binoculars I confirmed we were looking at the eyes of a crocodile.

It was hunting the pig. Only the eyes protruded from the water: the rest of the body remained hidden.

Like a supercharged harpoon the croc attacked

For ten tense minutes, the oblivious pig rooted about, getting closer to the water’s edge. We watched, captivated, as this deadly dance unfolded.

Then, the water erupted. A massive crocodile, propelled like a supercharged harpoon, launched itself from the billabong, jaws agape, targeting the unsuspecting pig. In a heart-stopping moment, the pig squealed and lurched sideways, narrowly escaping the croc’s snapping jaws.

This all happened in a nanosecond, leaving us stunned by the power and speed of the predator.

The crocodile’s next move was predator genius. It vanished back into the water, leaving the pig disoriented. Blinded by the setting sun the pig had no clue about its attacker. It shook its head, confused, and went back to rooting — oblivious to its near-death experience.

Just like the pig, we thought the hunt was over… but it wasn’t.

This croc had a plan….

As night fell we climbed on board our safari vehicle to leave. As we turned, the vehicle’s headlights picked up the dull black outline of the pig walking slowly beside the billabong…. behind it, in the water, a pair of bright lights shone in the darkness.

From a hundred metres away, its pupils now fully dilated, the crocodile’s eyes were reflecting our headlights back at us like two powerful spotlights. Now in night mode the hunter’s eyes calculated distance and strategy for its next attack.

I asked our host what the chances were of the pig lasting the night. He said: “None, that croc has been pulling pigs into this billabong for years now – it knows exactly what it’s doing”.

We discover a huge crocodile on the Mary River: the best and safest way to view them is by boat Roger Smith

Discover the wildlife of tropical Australia with Echidna Walkabout

Join our 7 day Wild Top End journey through Kakadu and Mary River National Parks. The best in-depth wildlife journey into tropical Australia. Includes Conservation Travel with Citizen Science projects. One departure in August each year for a maximum 0f 8 people.

Let’s celebrate crocodiles and their eyes

For more details read : PART TWO “Crocodiles eyes are superb : let’s celebrate that” where we look in more detail at why crocodile eyes are so damn good!

Find more information about the Top End – Enjoy Kakadu : 5 Best Tips

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