SYDNEY – Human remains were recovered Sunday in the hunt for a man snatched by a crocodile in front of terrified relatives on a boat trip in northern Australia.
The man, 62, was taken from his boat on the South Alligator River in northern Australia’s Kakadu national park late Saturday afternoon as his wife, son and daughter-in-law looked on.
Northern Territory police sergeant Andrew Hocking said two large crocodiles were shot and cut open by search crews Sunday at the water hole where the man was last seen.
“One of those crocs was later examined and a quantity of human remains was recovered,” Hocking told reporters, adding that the creature had been 4.7 meters long.
The remains were yet to be formally identified, but Hocking said the animal was recovered just 1.5 km from the attack site.
“The difficulty in this location is getting in large boats, we’re only able to bring in small boats. But using the expertise of the Territory Parks and Wildlife staff, they managed to help us bring it to a conclusion,” he said. “Thankfully this was carried out and (the remains) recovered very, very quickly.”
Crocodile expert Graeme Webb said it was unusual for a crocodile to attack at this time of the year, when Australia experiences cooler weather. “I don’t know what has happened in this case but it just sounds horrific. It’s just awful, you just can’t begin to understand how (the man’s family) must feel,” he said.
While the man’s wife and daughter-in-law drove two hours to the nearest lodge to raise the alarm his son remained in the area searching for his father, which Superintendent Bob Harrison earlier described as “obviously traumatizing,” telling ABC radio, “Anyone’s heart would go out to the family in that sort of incident.”
Crocodiles are a common feature of Australia’s tropical north, and their numbers have increased steadily since the introduction of protection laws in 1971, with government estimates putting the population at 75,000-100,000. Saltwater crocs can grow up to seven meters long and weigh more than a ton.
Saturday’s attack is Australia’s first fatality since January, when a 12-year-old boy was taken by a crocodile in the Kakadu national park, a sprawling World Heritage-listed nature and cultural reserve in Australia’s Top End. Another boy suffered bite wounds in that incident as he fought the crocodile off.
According to the international CrocBITE database of attacks set up at Australia’s Charles Darwin University last year, there have been 66 fatalities globally so far in 2014. The database was set up with the aim of firming up anecdotal reports that harmful or fatal incidents are increasing. There were 76 fatalities recorded by CrocBITE over the same period in 2013.