Watch CBS News

Crocodile attacks, injures man at popular swimming spot in Australia: "Extremely scary"

Rare white crocodile seen
Rare white crocodile spotted by tourists 01:02

The top politician in Australia's Northern Territory said Tuesday it was "time to consider" a return to crocodile culling after an attack at a popular swimming spot.

A 67-year-old man is recovering in hospital after encountering a crocodile at Wangi Falls in Litchfield National Park on Monday.

Northern Territory chief minister Natasha Fyles told reporters there had been a "significant increase" in the crocodile population since culling was suspended in the 1970s, with numbers going from around 3,000 to an estimate of more than 100,000.

"I think it's time for us to consider: do we need to go back to culling, considering that significant increase in the crocodile population and the impact it's having not only on tourism and visitors, but locals," she said.

Rangers and a crocodile management team had euthanized an 8-foot male saltwater crocodile at Wangi Falls on Monday night, according to the Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security.

Litchfield National Park is in a so-called barrier and removal zone, meaning that there is a "zero tolerance" approach to crocodiles and they can be trapped.

Northern Territory figures show that there were no saltwater crocodiles caught in Litchfield last year, but four were caught in each of the previous two years.

The Northern Territory government says it "uses a risk-based strategic management approach to determine the level of management activity" for crocodiles.

A crocodile in Australia's Northern Territory. Facebook/Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife

The swimming area where the man was attacked remains closed and will not reopen until surveys show it is safe.

Fyles described Monday's attack as "extremely scary," adding: "We do need to consider the measures that we have to keep our community safe."

Latest government statistics show that tourism was worth $1.7 billion Australian (about $1.14 billion U.S.) to the Northern Territory economy, although this figure was from 2021-22 when international travel was still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asked about the impact of the attacks on tourism, Fyles said: "I think everyone in the territory has stories where crocodiles have been more aggressive, have interacted, and when you have a bigger crocodile population, there is more chance that they will interact with humans.

"I think we had a very thankful outcome yesterday but it could be more tragic into the future."

The attack at Wangi Falls comes after other recent crocodile attacks in Australia.

In May, a man snorkeling off the coast of North Queensland, Australia, was attacked by a crocodile – and survived by prying its jaws off his head. Also in May, the remains of an Australian man who went missing on a fishing trip in crocodile-infested waters were found inside two of the reptiles.

Both of those attacks took place in Queensland. Since 1985, there have been at least 44 crocodile attacks on humans, according to the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, including a non-fatal attack that occurred in February of this year off the Cape York Peninsula. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.