Skip to Content

Saltwater Crocodiles Are Returning to Bali and Java

Share this post on:


On January 4 this year, an astonishing sight startled beachgoers. A three-meter saltwater crocodile heaved itself out of the water and onto the sandy shores of Legian Beach, one of Bali’s most popular spots. Now, that’s not your typical Bali postcard scene! This emaciated reptile later met its demise, leaving puzzled onlookers wondering how a crocodile found its way to a place known for sun, surf, and cocktails.

But the surprises didn’t end there. A mere four months later, a large crocodile wreaked havoc, attacking a man spearfishing with friends in Lombok’s Awang Bay, situated about 100 kilometers east of Bali. Local authorities managed to capture the rogue reptile and promptly transferred it to captivity. The incidents raised eyebrows and questions about crocodiles’ presence in these tropical paradises.

An Unlikely Tale: Bali and Crocodiles

Crocodiles and Bali may not be an obvious duo in your mind. Yet, these magnificent creatures were once a common sight across most of Indonesia’s waters. Historical records even document crocodile-human encounters in Bali dating back to the early 20th century, and the stories extended to Java until the 1950s. Can you believe it? Even Indonesia’s bustling capital, Jakarta, once had its own resident crocodiles lazily basking in the city’s rivers.

Unfortunately, crocodiles in Bali and Lombok met their demise by the mid-20th century, followed by a similar fate across Java. However, these prehistoric giants found refuge in remote corners of the vast Indonesian archipelago.

The Mighty Salties Return

As far back as the late 19th century, massive saltwater crocodiles were captured and documented in Java, particularly in Mojokerto, leaving an intriguing historical trail. Their presence was undeniable, but time took its toll.

Now, fast forward to the present day, and we’re seeing a shift in the crocodile landscape. Crocodiles are reappearing in Indonesia’s densely populated island of Java, including coastal waters off Jakarta. Astonishingly, around 70 people fall prey to crocodile attacks each year across the archipelago. The regions hit hardest include the Bangka-Belitung islands off Sumatra and the provinces of East Kalimantan, East Nusa Tenggara, and Riau.

YouTube video

Crocodiles: Return in Numbers?

So, does this resurgence signify a full-scale crocodile invasion? Not quite. You see, many Indonesian islands boast limited suitable mangrove habitats for crocodiles. Moreover, numerous creeks and rivers are naturally too small to accommodate large crocodile populations. Crocs aren’t the friendliest neighbors; they’re highly territorial, often driving away smaller males to seek new territories.

Where Are Bali’s Crocs Coming From?

What we’re likely witnessing is a crocodile exodus from neighboring areas. Genetic analysis would be needed to confirm this, but the surviving crocodile populations are much closer to Bali and Lombok. Crocodiles are most likely migrating from nearby islands to the east, such as Flores, Lembata, Sumba, and Timor.

As for Java, its new crocodile arrivals probably originate from southern Sumatra, which is less than 30 kilometers away at its nearest point. This region has long been known for crocodile attacks, further substantiating this hypothesis.

Living Alongside Crocs: What Does It Mean for Residents and Tourists?

A recent sighting created quite a buzz when a relatively large crocodile was photographed basking on a massive fish trap in West Lombok, just shy of 50 kilometers from the tourist hotspot of the Gili Islands. These sightings and encounters imply that we’re on the verge of needing strategies to coexist with these reptilian returnees.

But how can we prevent crocodile-human conflicts? Here are some important steps to consider:

  1. Raising Crocodile Awareness: First and foremost, people need to be aware that crocodiles are making a comeback. Increasing crocodile awareness and caution is vital to save lives.
  2. Preserving Crocodile Habitat: Some researchers believe attacks become more likely when mangroves are destroyed or fishing grounds are depleted. Protecting crocodile habitat and prey species can help secure the future of the species and reduce the risk of attacks.

The return of crocodiles to Bali and Java brings a unique opportunity to coexist with these magnificent creatures, celebrating the rich biodiversity of this incredible region. So, instead of crossing Bali off your travel list, embrace the unexpected and get ready to share the paradise with some ancient, scaly inhabitants!

Up next:

Saltwater Crocodile Vs. African Rock Python

Eagle Snatches Nile Crocodile And Flies Away With It

Meet Lolong The Largest Crocodile Ever

Share this post on: