Three humpback whales have taken a wrong turn on their migration south and ended up in a croc-infested river in Kakadu National Park.


Who would you back to win in a fight? A humpback whale or a saltwater croc? This may not be a hypothetical question for much longer – over the weekend, three humpback whales were found swimming up the croc-ridden East Alligator River in Kakadu National Park. Yikes.

Wait, how did a whale end up in Kakadu?

It’s believed to be the first time whales have swam into the river and the trio are thought to have taken a wrong turn on their way to Antarctica. 

Since first being spotted by tourists, two of the whales have managed to swim their way back to the ocean, but there are fears that the third whale, now about 20km downstream, may become stuck on a sandbar. 

The NT Government has set up a boat exclusion zone, reaching from the rivermouth, 30km upstream to protect both the whale and boaters. 


Photo thanks to Parks Australia


‘The last thing we want is a collision between a boat and whale in waters where crocodiles are prevalent and visibility underwater is zero,’ Parks Australia said.

Croc vs. Whale – Who would win?

Boats could also scare the whale further downstream where the river narrows, increasing its chances of becoming stranded, which according to Dr Carol Palmer, a marine ecosystems scientist for the NT Department of Environment and Natural Resources, is when a croc would strike. 

‘The whale looks to be in good condition. As long as that remains the case it’s not something a crocodile would even be capable of attacking. It’s just way out of a crocodile’s world,’ Dr Palmer told ABC News.

‘But there’s no way we can lift a 12-15 metre whale off a sandbar and that’s potentially when the crocs would kick in, cause it’s an easy feed for them.’


Rescue Mission

This morning on ABC Breakfast Radio National, Dr Palmer chatted about the next steps for moving the whale on. 

‘From today we’ll potentially put on some satellite tags which means we’ll be able to monitor them remotely and get an idea of what it’s up to,’ she said. 

From there, the plan for moving the whale along is all noise based. The options are either a series of boats lined up downstream creating a bunch of noise to try and move the whale back into Van Diemens Gulf or pre-recorded humpback whale sounds projected into the river to coax the whale out. One of these plans will be put into action in the coming days. 


Feature photo thanks to NT Government