On the list of the world’s fiercest predators, it’s difficult to argue that the saltwater crocodile doesn’t at least crack the top five.
In addition to their incredible strength, speed, and chomping power, saltwater crocs also have an impressive vertical, allowing them to leap skyward from the water in search of food.
On one of his many excursions on Australia’s Adelaide River, veteran tour guide Damian Duffy captured a 12.5-foot saltwater crocodile preparing for such a launch, calling it “the last thing you would see” in the wild.
Duffy, better known by his social media handle, Wildman Adventures, says the “unsettling” moment occurred a couple years ago. To this day, however, it remains one of the most memorable encounters of his entire career.
“Take a moment to appreciate just how insane it is that this crocodile is positioned vertically in the water, steadied against the current & ready to launch itself out of the water with its powerful tail without warning,” he wrote in the caption.
“His focus on me is somewhat unnerving. The precision, speed, and accuracy of a crocodile are phenomenal. Never, EVER get this close to a crocodile.”
So, what’s a safe distance from a saltwater crocodile? In short: much, much further than the distance from which Damian Duffy was filming. Australia’s croc safe campaign recommends maintaining a minimum distance of 16 feet (5 meters) at all times.
Now, that’s a good rule of thumb with any species of wildlife. When in doubt, get a little further away. That said, it’s an especially important rule by which to abide when dealing with saltwater crocodiles.
What makes a saltwater crocodile so dangerous?
Saltwater crocs, or salties, are incredibly territorial and defend these territories with ruthless aggression. In addition, they’re the largest crocodile species and the largest living reptile in the world. Male salties have been recorded at staggering lengths of 23 feet, weighing upwards of 2,200 pounds.
As if that wasn’t enough, they’re also unbelievably fast, capable of swimming at speeds of 15 to 18 mph – three times quicker than the fastest human swimmers.
After using their immense size and speed to catch their prey, they rely on their bone-crushing 3,700 psi of bite force – the greatest bite force in the animal kingdom – to drown or pulverize their prey before tearing into it with sudden jerks of the head.
And if the prey is out of reach, such as in a tree above the croc’s watery home? A saltwater crocodile will simply launch out of the water and snatch it down.
A crocodile’s jump height depends on the size of the reptile, as they’re essentially standing straight up and hopping on their back legs for slightly more vertical length. Though there are no studies on jump height, anecdotal evidence suggests crocs can jump around 5 feet.
It goes without saying that saltwater crocodiles can be highly dangerous. Crocodile attacks, however, are extremely rare. As long as you’re giving crocs the space they want and deserve, they’ll stick to eating the unlucky fish, monkeys, and birds that venture into their territory.