CANBERRA, March 5 (Xinhua) -- There are fears Australia's famous saltwater crocodiles could become a bigger threat to humans, with ecologists discovering the giant reptile's population is increasing by three percent every year.
Saltwater crocodiles, which can grow up to seven meters in length, were listed as a protected species back in the 1970s, however since hunting the "crocs" was declared illegal, their population has recovered dramatically.
Parks and Wildlife ecologist, Ben Corey told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that the reptiles could soon pose a very real risk to those who live in populated areas in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
"We've been doing surveys of crocodiles in the King River and other parts of (Western Australia) since 1986, and it's the longest running survey we've got for saltwater crocodiles in the Kimberley," Corey said.
"In the early years we'd count between 20 and 40 crocodiles along the 40 kilometers of river, and now in some years we are counting as many as 150 animals along the same area.
"Over time, we've seen an increase in the number of larger crocodiles as well, so this trend is consistent with a population that's recovering from the brink of extinction."
Colleague, Dr Andy Halford said the research points to the crocodiles moving into more urban areas as the population continues to increase.
"I don't think we're surprised by how much (the population has) gone up, but the reality is we're probably looking at a 260 to 300 percent increase in overall numbers on what was around some 30 years ago," he said.