Who, what, why: How do you fight off a crocodile?
- 14 February 2011
- From the section Magazine
An Australian man has fended off an attack by a 10ft (3m) crocodile. How could anyone possibly defeat such a beast?
They are huge, vicious predators, with incredibly powerful jaws and move with lightning speed - so you really, really don't want to start an argument with one.
But Australian miner Eddie Sigai found himself on the wrong side of a crocodile when one grabbed his arm and dragged him underwater at a Queensland creek.
Mr Sigai, 37, managed to escape with cuts to his back and hand, as pictured in the Daily Mail, by poking the creature in the eyes - which experts agree offers the only possible chance of fending off such an assault.
But wildlife presenter and crocodile fan Chris Packham warns: "The only way you can guarantee survival is not get attacked in the first place."
Though a great enthusiast for all things crocodile-related - he once seriously considered the logistics of keeping one in his home as a pet - Packham says humans always need to be on their guard when in the vicinity of such animals.
They are extremely intelligent, he says, and will lie in wait underwater, silently approaching their prey before launching a ferocious, unexpected assault.
"Trying to open its mouth with your hands isn't going to work - its jaw closes with the power of 13 tonnes per square inch," he says.
"Its skin is so thick you aren't going to pierce it and its head is a solid mass of bone - there are no weak points.
"The one thing you can do is get your fingers in its eyes - but with crocodiles, prevention is always better than cure."
It was this technique that saved Mr Sigai, who gouged the saltwater crocodile when it attacked.
The miner, 37, who had been swimming in a creek with his daughters, aged 12 and 17, was left with bite marks on his left hand and deep scratch marks down his back after spending two days in hospital - yet acknowledges he was lucky to escape alive.
Bob Cooper, an Australian bushcraft expert and instructor in survival skills, agrees that the eyes offer the only route to fending off a crocodile attack.
But he says he is constantly amazed at how careless visitors to crocodile-infested waters can be in the presence of such dangerous creatures.
"If they've got hold of you, poking the eyes is the only possible way you can fight back - they have thousands of years of instinct telling them this is the only vulnerable part of their body and they need to let go," Mr Cooper says.
"But the chances are you aren't going to get anywhere near them. Once they've got you underwater, that's it, you're going to drown."
One expert who has spent enough time with the beasts to gauge the best way to handle them is Shaun Foggett, founder of the Crocodiles of the World conservation centre in Oxfordshire.
He agrees that vigilance is more reliable than eye-poking, and advises that taking the opportunity to make your escape is the best way to keep out of a crocodile's jaws.
"If you are within striking distance, you probably won't know much about it," he says.
"Otherwise, they might give you a warning - they'll start hissing at you. The best thing to do then is to back away slowly and not make any sudden movements - an adult croc can run as fast as an adult human."