National Geographic News
As the dry season draws nearer in Kakadu National Park in Australia's Northern Territory, so does peak tourist season. Which is why park rangers are now busily "managing" the Kakadu's resident crocodiles.
Crocodile numbers have steadily increased in the 4.9 million-acre (2-million-hectare) park over the past three decades. The population now stands at about 7,000 crocs.
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Although most of Kakadu's crocodiles are left alone, there are five crocodile-management zones in the park. In these popular tourist spots, park rangers remove crocs from water holes that are close to camping sites, walking tracks, and swimming areas.
Park rangers have already moved three saltwater crocs this year. Twenty-one crocodiles have been removed since 1991.
The animals are usually given to the Bininj (pronounced bin-ing) and Mungguy (mung-goy) peoplethe traditional owners of the park's territoryfor food.
Glenn Meade, the manager of Kakadu National Park, says it is important to remember that the preserve is crocodile country.
"But at the same time it's not good business to have people injured by crocodiles," Meade said. "There's no reason to be feeling insecure, but if you go for a swim or out on the water, you could be putting yourself in a spot of bother."
A revamped park-information campaign targets fishers, reminding them not to fish at water's edge, stand in water no matter how shallow, drag fish out of the water by hand, or dangle their arms or legs in the water.
Many of the park's most popular areas will open early this year. The aim is to attract more people during the already busy dry season.
Kakadu's crocodiles present a dilemma for the park's managers, its traditional land owners, and the Australian government.
The massive reptiles are a significant part of the attraction of the park, which is listed as a UN World Heritage site. But the crocs also have a habit of eating tourists who get too close.
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