Australian study finds alcohol linked to croc attacks
Almost one in three people bitten by deadly saltwater crocodiles in Australia had been drinking alcohol before the animal attacked, new research has found(AFP/File)
SYDNEY (AFP) - Almost one in three people bitten by deadly saltwater crocodiles in Australia had been drinking alcohol before the animal attacked, new research has found.
An Australian review of unprovoked crocodile attacks on humans between 1971 and 2004 found that 29 percent of the 62 attacks had involved some alcohol consumption by the victim.
"About one-third of the people who had been attacked had actually been drinking alcohol," study co-author Charlie Manolis told AFP Wednesday.
"But it doesn't mean they were ... (drunk) when they fell into the river -- although it did happen."
Manolis said the research found that crocodiles were opportunistic predators and that when people took risks while in their habitat, they sometimes paid the ultimate price.
"Sometimes when people do drink they throw caution to the wind," he said.
The study, published in the US-based Wilderness Medical Society journal, found that fatal attacks had remained roughly stable at about two per year since the 1970s.
"But the number of non-fatal attacks has increased markedly," Manolis said.
Non-fatal attacks increased sharply from about 0.1 per year between 1971 and 1980 to 3.3 per year from 2001 to 2004, according to the study.
The research found that most attacks (81 percent) occurred while the victim was swimming or wading and that all fatal attacks involved water.
Manolis said the dramatic increase in the saltwater crocodile population since the species was protected in the early 1970s was not necessarily responsible for the increase in attacks.
The number of wild "salties" estimated to live in the Northern Territory has jumped from as few as 3,000 in 1971 to more than 75,000 currently.
But he said because the average size of crocodiles had increased over that time, the animals attacking humans had often changed from a small "hatchling" to a four-metre giant weighing hundreds of kilograms.
Last month a man was killed by a five-metre crocodile while diving near Darwin, five days after a British snorkeller was taken and killed by a croc.
But Manolis does not think culling is the answer.
"It's people being sensible," he said.