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Army May 24, 2012
'I'M OFF to the Territory
to catch crocodiles,"
Norforce patrolman Pte
Roger Matthews said
to his parents back in 1984 as
he left the family home on an
adventure to the Top End of
His obsession with the reptiles
began when the Leyland broth-
ers visited his school in the 1970s
promoting the Northern Territory
with imagery depicting the bush,
dirt roads and the barren red out-
"From that moment I knew I
had to go there," he said.
Shaking their heads in dis-
belief, his parents were telling
him people just don't go and do
that, but after hitchhiking to the
Territory from Wollongong he has
now been there for more than 25
Working initially as a barman
at the .303 bar on the Adelaide
River, Pte Matthews said the job
allowed him to make invaluable
"I got to meet everyone in the
[crocodile] industry," he said.
"From there I had a brief stint
with buffalo catching before land-
ing a job working at a local croco-
After three years at the croco-
dile farm he followed one of the
managers to a bigger farm, the
Darwin Crocodile Farm, where
he was in his element catching
and trapping crocodiles for their
extensive breeding program and
doing nesting work on the Mary
and Adelaide Rivers for saltwater
Pte Matthews said during that
time he was lucky enough to be
part of the last freshwater croco-
dile muster on the Daly River.
"We caught 940 crocodiles in
four nights," he said.
"The Daly River is an incred-
ible place for crocodiles."
Since then he has always had
his fingers in the industry but has
left crocodile farming and now
works for the NT Government as a
Although not farming croco-
diles anymore, he does have eight
freshwater crocodiles at home in
the backyard as family pets.
Having raised half of them
from the incubator when he
worked at the crocodile farm, he
said they were initially kept in
tanks until one crossed his wife's
path while she was walking out-
"It was about that time I
thought they should go in a pen,"
IN THE Top End wet season, female saltwater
crocodiles will make nests of mud and vegeta-
tion to lay their eggs and then guard them,
sometimes with a male nearby as well.
Crocodile hunters such as Pte Roger
Matthews will come in by boat, helicopter or
over land to collect the eggs and take them back
to crocodile farms, raising the chances of surviv-
ability substantially compared to the wild.
When collecting the eggs, the hunters usual-
ly work in two-man teams, with one maintaining
watch while the other carefully collects the eggs
and marks them with a pencil to ensure remains
positioned in the same way as in the nest.
Reserve service is a big enough adventure for most people, but it's almost ordinary
compared to the other activities Norforce patrolman and crocodile hunter Pte Roger
Matthews gets up to, Cpl Nick Wiseman reports.
Grabbing the croc by the tail
"Despite what people may
think, they're the ideal low-main-
Even the local primary school
has had trips to his backyard to
view the crocodiles and learn
more about the animals.
Pte Matthews describes his
crocodiles as all having very
"Destin is very social, coming
out for people, while Psycho lives
up to his name coming out snap-
ping every time," he said.
"Roger, on the other hand stays
away from everyone, being not
very sociable at all."
Missing the excitement of
crocodile hunting, Pte Matthews
has gone back to his roots
and started his own business,
Crocodile Catching Contractors,
removing problematic crocodiles
from various areas around the
From leaving home all those
years ago through his time at croc-
odile farms and now starting back
into his old game, Pte Matthews
said he has enjoyed the hard work
over the years and every moment
working with the reptiles.
"I love them, I just love them."
WHAT IS NESTING?
HUNGRY crocodiles laying in wait would deter
most people from crossing a river, but they were an
afterthought for one Norforce patrol when a civilian
vehicle started to float away.
Patrolman and croc hunter Pte Roger Matthews
tells the story of one patrol's uncomfortable close
"We were on our way back from a patrol around
the Coburg Peninsula when we got to the East
Alligator River and found it flowing too fast to cross,"
"We knew we'd have a 10 or 15-minute window
of opportunity when the tide came in to complete
Weighing down the vehicles with more than 250
kilograms of sandbags, the patrol threw seeds in the
water to work out the speed and best time to cross.
"A civilian troop carrier started across and
almost made it before starting to float backwards,"
"The command was given and we launched in
with the first vehicle pushing the civilian troop carrier
across to safety."
After the rest of the patrol vehicles made it
across, it was time for Pte Matthews's vehicle and
it was at this time they could see the five hungry
crocodiles watching a short distance away.
The soldiers made their way into the river, resist-
ing the urge to duck their heads out the window to
check on their progress for fear of losing something
in the process.
With the water rising quickly, not much could be
seen of the vehicle by the time they made it across
except the top of the canopy. Even the muesli bars
that had been sitting on the console floated out the
window towards the crocodiles.
The patrol made it across safely that night to the
cheers of the many civilians waiting by their vehicles
still stuck on the other side and continued their cold,
wet drive home to Darwin, some 300km away.
"The rescue and river crossing was certainly a
highlight of that patrol," Pte Matthews said.
Happy snap: Norforce patrolman and crocodile hunter Pte Roger Matthews has plenty of stories
to tell from his 25 years in the Northern Territory, including some involving his pet crocs (inset).
Photos by Cpl Nick Wiseman
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