A 57-year-old fishermen identified as Tran Van Lanh was killed on Monday after he was ambushed by a crocodile in Australia’s Adelaide River. According to the AAP, Lanh was attempting to free a snagged fishing line when he was attacked by a rare, but well-known albino crocodile that local river boat captains nicknamed “Michael Jackson.” The animal had been frequently spotted swimming in the river and was considered a popular attraction for tourists. Shortly after the attack, police and wildlife officers tracked the nearly 15-foot albino crocodile by boat, eventually shooting and killing it.
“They know how to do three major things: eat, reproduce and aggression […] if you’re not going to look after yourself, you’ll find yourself being eaten,” said Rob Marchand, owner of a river boat cruise company that operates in the Adelaide River.
Marchand and other tour operators said that the large crocodile gave visitors a thrill whenever it surfaced, but that did not mean it was not a dangerous predator as well. Albinism is not uncommon in crocodile hatchlings, but few ever survive to adulthood. The colorization makes the animal vulnerable to predators and even its own kind. For this particular individual to have reached adulthood, experts say that it may have been especially dominant.
“This particular croc had lots of scars, missing limbs, a huge bite out of his flank. He’d been through the wars,” crocodile researcher Adam Britton told ABC News.
The “wars” that Britton mentioned are aggressive territorial battles between large crocodile males. Pat Chappell, a tour guide, said that the albino crocodile could be regularly seen patrolling the waters and trailing after river boats. Experts visited the site where the attack occurred and said that it was a likely place for an ambush to happen. The Daily Mailreported that Lanh was fishing with his wife when he went into the water. Paramedics later treated his wife for shock, while Lanh’s body was recovered later in the day.
Wildlife officials are cautioning residents not to overreact to the latest crocodile attack, which was the third this year. Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles addressed the issue, saying that the crocodile population in the region is fast becoming a problem, but experts are working on a plan that could utilize a combination of culling and safari hunts.