Are crocs better than BOM at predicting wet weather?
The title 'Crocodilia News' comes from a competition to find a name for a new state in North Queensland, in the late 19th century.
The most popular name was probably Alberta, honouring Queen Victoria's consort.
Another suggested name was considered a joke. It was 'Crocodilia'. Given the history of crocodiles in North Queensland it was perhaps apt.
Crocodiles, sometimes mistakenly called 'alligators', were well known in the Townsville district, witnessed by the early naming of two creeks to the south of the city - Alligator and Crocodile.
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However, despite gruesome tales of crocodile attacks, in the mid-20th century one crocodile became famous as a predictor of the approach of the wet season.
Other signs of approaching wet weather were the call of the Koel (Australian cuckoo), also commonly called the Rainbird.
Ants nesting in higher places and dove orchid blooms were also believed to be the forerunners of the wet season.
It seems, though, that crocodiles building their nest may have been the most accurate.
One crocodile in particular, a lady friend of Tarzan, the huge male at St John Robinson's Zoo, about 8km north of Townsville, was touted as the best predictor of a big wet.
In January and February each year, a close watch was kept on her movements, until she started to build a nest in which to lay her numerous eggs.
As soon as she started to build the nest, Mr Robinson, owner of the zoo, would announce to everyone that a "wet" was on the way. The croc was seldom wrong.
In March 1946, her predictions were more than fulfilled when Townsville witnessed one of its highest floods on record.
Unfortunately it did not spare the zoo.
A small herd of deer was saved by building a platform raised on oil drums, and kangaroos and wallabies found shelter on a similar platform.
The crocodiles, however, escaped to find freedom on the flooded Town Common.
Of five in residence at the time, four returned, but the fifth, the monster called Tarzan, remained at large until he was captured some time later.
In 1953, Tarzan became even more notorious after he attacked one of the zoo's employees, Hugh Henry, who ventured into the enclosure, grabbing him by the leg.
Clifford Robinson, by then managing his father's zoo, was awarded a medal for bravery after he jumped into the enclosure to rescue Henry.
Although rescued from the jaws of the crocodile and rushed to Townsville General Hospital, sadly Henry did not survive.
The same year, Robinson put the zoo on the market with all of the animals, including Tarzan. Eventually, the property was sold to Phillip Wirth, who used it as a resting place for his circus animals, but the eventual fate of Tarzan seems not to have been recorded.
Originally published as Are crocs better than BOM at predicting wet weather?