Two reasons to fear crocs

The cast of the TV series The Croc Catchers NT, from left, Joey Buckerfield, Danielle Best, Tommy Nichols, Rachel Pearce and Robbie Risk.
The cast of the TV series The Croc Catchers NT, from left, Joey Buckerfield, Danielle Best, Tommy Nichols, Rachel Pearce and Robbie Risk. Contributed - Mark Rogers, National Geographic Channel

TOMMY Nichols has at least two reasons to fear crocodiles.

The 58-year-old can count on one hand the number of times he has let his guard down and the scaly beasts have caught him by surprise.

His left hand, to be exact.

The scar tissue where his two fingers and half of his palm used to be stands as a reminder of just how suddenly a day of tracking and catching crocs can become a brush with death.

A little more than nine years ago Nichols was on a routine capture run and was in the process of putting a snout rope over the three-metre croc's jaw when the predator did something unexpected.

"He grabbed hold of my hand and I got bitten," Nichols said.

"He let go after that first bite but as he let go he grabbed my hand again and ripped two of my fingers off plus a chunk of my palm."

Despite his savage encounter, Nichols is positive and doesn't blame the croc, rather he still feels a lot of respect for the creatures.

"I was fortunate, it could have been worse. He could have pulled me into the water," he said.

"After the accident when I was returning to work I decided if I was going to be a hindrance or a safety risk to the rest of the team I would give it up, but I still just really enjoy it.

"There is no safe croc. I guess one positive was we changed our catching technique after that."

Nichols features in the National Geographic Channel's eight-part-series, which follows the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Service head croc catcher and his team as they wrangle the ancient reptiles at the top of Australia.

He has more than 30 years of croc catching experience and always knew he wanted to work with wildlife.

"It was something I wanted to do since I was a kid," he said.

"But when I started crocs weren't much of an issue so they were more of job on the side.

"I worked mostly in enforcement and permits."

There are plenty of crocs to capture with an estimated 100,000 crocodiles in the Northern Territory and when they come in contact with or threaten humans, the unit steps in.

There are five rangers in the unit and already this year they have pulled more than 200 crocodiles out of Darwin Harbour.

The animals aren't relocated but rather sent to a crocodile farm so they don't find their way back.

To be a croc catcher Nichols said you need speed, guts and fear.

"Being mental probably helps," he said.


The Croc Catchers NT - Monday at 8pm on National Geographic Channel

Topics:  crocodiles national geographic channel tv series

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