The saltwater crocodile is the largest of all the living crocodile species in the world. Also known as a saltie, or estuarine crocodile, it is a deadly ambush predator capable of surviving in fresh or saltwater habitats. The species is hunted in many areas for its huge skins and out of fear due to its man-eater reputation.
The saltwater crocodile grows to 17 feet and 1,000 lbs. on average, but has been recorded at 23 feet and over 2,200 lbs. It is a large reptile with a broad body and short legs. Its olive-green skin is thick and made up of bony, oval plates. The saltie's tail is powerful and mainly muscle, which helps it swim rapidly through water. It has a huge mouth with sharp teeth which it uses to clamp onto its prey.
The saltie is a wide-ranging crocodile. It lives from northern Australia northward to Indonesia, New Guinea and Southeast Asia. The crocodile lives in marshes and swamps during the wet season but travels down to the coast during the dry season. It is a highly territorial animal and needs plenty of room in which to thrive. When rivers dry up, it searches for somewhere to live along the seashore. It is capable of swimming many miles out into the ocean.
The saltwater crocodile will take almost any chance for a meal. It swims slowly toward the banks of rivers or the shore, often hidden until it is close enough to jump forward and latch its huge powerful jaws onto an animal drinking from the water. Animals such as buffalo, wild pigs and even sharks can fall prey to the huge crocodiles. The smaller animals feed on other reptiles, small mammals, fish and crustaceans.
Female saltwater crocodiles reach breeding age at 12 years old, and males mature at 16 years old. During the wet season, the normally solitary crocodiles meet to breed. The female then builds a huge nest of wet leaves and vegetation that will hold 40 to 60 eggs into. After 12 weeks, throughout which the female protects the nest, the baby crocodiles hatch and the female carries them to the water in its mouth. The crocodiles live on average 70 years, but some can reach over 100.