Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Natural selection, thwarted

The news has been full of a Kiwi named Ryan who got himself into a bit of bother in the Top End recently, stranded on an island off the Western Australia coast north-west of Kununurra. He thought he'd have himself an adventure and got dropped off there with some supplies and a kayak, but though he reckoned to have done some research he hadn't, oddly, factored in the crocs.

They're not called 'salt-water crocodiles' for nothing; but when he set off on his little 2.5m kayak, he was still surprised to find himself shadowed as he paddled by a 6m croc. Not unnaturally, he panicked somewhat and made a smart beeline back to the island instead of continuing to battle the current to cover the 4km across to the mainland. And then was stranded there for a fortnight with dwindling supplies and water, constantly observed by the monster croc, until he was fortuitously rescued by a passing boatie. Could have ended very differently.
Really, he must have been so dim. You can't go anywhere in the Top End without hearing all about the crocs, even if you don't see them - which you will, because they're everywhere. On warning signs, in regular headlines in the NT News, and in, er, person, basking on river banks and beaches in all their prehistoric, scaly glory. I couldn't tell you how many I've seen, on the Daly River particularly in the Territory, lurking in the water or mouths agape on the bank. They're horribly fascinating, especially when you've seen how lightning-fast they can move despite their size. And when you know that they will patiently stalk prey, like Ryan, for weeks if necessary, until the time is right. And what's even more frightening? That they are intelligent enough to recognise patterns of behaviour, so you're advised not to follow a routine that they can plan an attack around.

Which is all very well, until you get eaten when you turn up one day for the first time in your life at a viewpoint where other tourists have stopped before you and thus trained the local croc. Or, you know, you're dim like Ryan.

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