What in the World?

What in the World?

A lot of things in our earth

This is a saltwater crocodile from the Adelaide River in Australia. Crocodiles look a lot like the alligators that live in the southern United States, except their noses are longer and thinner. The saltwater crocodile is the largest crocodile in the world. They can grow to be 20 feet long and can weigh almost a ton, which is the weight of a small car! A crocodile that large would be at least 60 years old.

Saltwater crocodiles live in Australia, where people usually call them "salties." Saltwater crocodiles can swim in fresh or salt water, and usually live in rivers, wetlands, and harbors. Saltwater crocodiles like to live in special wetlands called mangrove swamps.

Mangrove swamps are areas that have a mixture of saltwater and freshwater. Mangroves are special trees that have adapted to living in areas where the ground is sometimes dry, sometimes covered in freshwater, and sometimes covered in saltwater. Mangrove trees have large groups of leglike roots above ground that catch mud and weeds, stretching the shoreline into the sea.

Mangroves are an important part of the environment because they are a favorite home for young fish, crabs, and shrimp. The mangroves' thick roots give these animals lots of places to hide from larger predators, like crocodiles.

Mangrove swamps are also sacred places to the Aborigines, Australia's original inhabitants who have lived there for at least 50,000 years. Aborigines believe that the mangroves were made as one with human beings at the beginning of time by the Djang'kawu, the mothers of the Aboriginal people.

We are walking along, sister, singing and making country with the point of our digging sticks. What is that, sister? A mangrove shell. We must put it within the mouth of the mat and hide it, making it sacred. . . . Indeed it is sacred to us. We cover it up within the mat, so no one may see it; it is like a young sibling child.

-- Song of the Djang'kawu

Aborigines are hunting and gathering peoples and they feel a deep connection to the natural world. They have developed much knowledge and a great appreciation of their environment, including the plants and animals they depend on for survival.

Today, many people in Australia stay away from dangerous animals like crocodiles or may even destroy mangrove swamps to build homes along the water. But for the Aboriginal people, the mangroves are abundant gardens of food and resources that support and enrich their lives where every plant and animal, like the saltwater crocodile, is known.

Author: Jake Byl, Reach the World. Photo: Rumpleteaser/CreativeCommons.org.