Matt Wright knows more about giant saltie crocs than most men alive. He is the go-to guy for trapping and relocating troublesome monster crocs from places close to people, to wilderness habitats.
Despite working with crocs up to 18ft long, the star of Nat Geo’s ‘The Monster Croc Wrangler’ exclusively reveals to RSNG that he never carries a gun when dealing with these deadly reptiles.
Wright flies helicopters and is an expert in croc behaviour but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had some close calls, from being trapped underwater with a croc, to bouncing a heli off the top of a mountain…
RSNG What goes on in the mind of a croc, are they just faceless reptiles or do they have different personalities?
MATT WRIGHT, CROC WRANGLER ‘Yes definitely, so every croc will have a different personality as such. But at the end of the day they are just a reptile that wants to hunt and eat.’
‘There is no emotion there, they are a solitary animal and don’t care for much other than eating, getting warm, sunbaking and cruising the river.’
RSNG What’s the moment when you are in the most danger as a croc wrangler?
MW ‘When we are setting traps and you are out in the water, which can be very deep, or you have set up the traps and there is a lot of bait and dead animals around causing smell. That can get pretty dangerous.’
‘Once, I had a trap go off and I didn’t think there was a croc in the trap, so I went down and poked it with a stick. The trap door had moved round and changed shape, and in there was one of the biggest crocs we have ever caught.’
‘The croc launched out and knocked me off the rails and back into the other side of the water. But that’s what comes with the territory.’
‘I once ended up underneath an 18ft male croc, trying to push him back into the trap’
RSNG Was that your closest call with a crocodile?
MW ‘There have been a lot of close calls, sometimes at the close on the front of the trap, or I once ended up underneath a big male croc trying to push him back into the trap. He was about eighteen feet long.’
‘So yes, there have been a few close calls. Being caught out and being in the water above your waist can be quite scary at times.’
RSNG And what about being a chopper pilot, have there been any close calls there?
MW ‘There have been a lot of closer calls in a helicopter rather than working with wildlife. Touch wood, you hope you read the weather right and the engine doesn’t stop.’
‘Once, I was flying in Canada and came across a 6,000ft mountain, and screwed up the landing with it being a bit too heavy and down wind. I could have killed everyone on board – it was a really scary moment.’
‘Luckily, I managed to slide it across the top and flip it down a couple of thousand feet and tried again. I don’t think the crew spoke to me for about two weeks after that!’
RSNG What are the faces that are challenging crocs today and how has your conservation work helped them along?
MW ‘The crocodiles are pretty much in good numbers and there isn’t really a great deal challenging them. There is talk of culling, which is something that we will try and outlaw. There has been a good commercial conservation programme put in place for the last 30 years and we have numbers up from to 4,000 to 140,000.’
RSNG What can we learn from crocodiles?
MW ‘Patience – crocodiles are very patient animals they will lay for hours and hours just to get a feed or to watch, listen and learn. When I am working with crocs you have to be patient, I’ll sit there for long periods of time just to work with that animal.’
RSNG In terms of adrenaline, do you chase it or are you more of a level-headed character in the thick of things?
MW ‘Well, everything slows down when you are in the middle of things. Adrenaline comes with the territory, but you don’t want to enhance it. It is important to stay calm and collected. Otherwise it could get very dangerous really quickly.’
‘When dealing with an upset croc, I use a stick or crate rather than a gun – something for it to chew on, other than you!’
RSNG Is it true that you do not work with firearms and if so, what can you do to deal with a rampaging croc?
MW ‘I do not work with firearms and crocodiles. I do use firearms to get bait and feed my other pet crocs. But when dealing with an upset croc, I would usually use a stick or crate. Basically, something for it to chew on, other than you.’
RSNG Have you seen the impact of climate change in your places of work and how?
MW ‘Every season is different, the biggest impact of climate change that I have seen was when I was flying up in the Yukon and saw where the glaciers used to be and where they are now. There is a lot of trouble up there. But as far as we go, our seasons change a bit and I am sure that does have some effect.’
RSNG What is the most surprising thing you have learnt about crocs over the years?
MW ‘That they are not the maneaters that everyone says they are. When I was new to it, I expected crocs to launch and chase me round. That is not the case, they are very scared animals, and are easy to bluff. However, I wouldn’t jump in a pool and go swimming with a fifteen- or sixteen-foot croc.’
RSNG What is the biggest saltie you have ever worked with and how big can they theoretically grow to?
MW ‘The biggest saltie I have worked with was a bit over 18ft. The biggest that has ever been caught was in the Philippines. That croc was 22ft. Whether they get much bigger than that, I have been told they do but I have not seen any evidence.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch this clip of Matt Wright swimming with a croc from Monster Croc Wrangler Series 4
Monster Croc Wrangler returns to Nat Geo WILD with a brand new Season 4 on 15th October at 8pm. Monster Croc Wrangler also airs Every Thursday at 9pm on Freeview channel BLAZE
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