WHEN IT COMES TO avoiding a potentially fatal croc encounter in Australia’s Top End, most people would have their eyes on the water – but have you ever thought to look up?
Crocodiles are already known for impressive speed and agility around the water, but a new study published this week shows they are also capable of climbing trees.
“Nobody who has ever witnessed a freshwater crocodile run in a galloping gait would ever suspect them capable of such agility [in the trees], yet they are skilled at it,” says Dr Adam Britton, study co-author at Charles Darwin University in Darwin, NT.
Crocodiles basking in trees
The research, led by Dr Vladimir Dinets at the University of Tennessee in the USA, is the first to focus on climbing behaviours of crocodilians, a group also including alligators, caimans and gharials.
The scientists confirmed that four different crocodile species – found in Australia, Africa and the Americas – are all able to climb, some as high as 4m, where they were observed basking in trees.
Climbing abilities vary by species and also by size. Small, lightweight crocs, primarily juveniles less than 1.5m long, are able to reach the highest branches, while larger individuals are usually found on lower perches, no more than a metre above the water.
Australia’s freshwater crocodile can climb steep slopes, such as those along riverbanks, which saltwater crocodiles would have more trouble with. “Hatchlings of both species…can even climb vertical brickwork, which is the cause of occasional crocodile farm escapes,” Adam told Australian Geographic.