[Updated July 2012]
When this story was written back in 2008, Cassius was indeed the largest saltwater crocodile in the world that we knew of. But in November 2011 we measured a much larger one called Lolong, and in June 2012 he was officially declared by Guinness to be the largest crocodile in captivity. The full story is in my 23 June 2012 blog post which is here.
How many times I have been asked this question: which is the largest crocodile in the world? Of course I always say that it's a saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) because the evidence we have supports that. But there's not always a lot of actual evidence of large crocodile sizes, just plenty of "big croc" stories. Still, the biggest crocodile ever measured (with a tape measure) was around 6.3 metres long (20.7 feet) from Papua New Guinea.
But what about the largest living crocodile? There may be several huge crocs living in the wild that we don't know about, but the largest living crocodile in captivity has been living on Green Island near Cairns for over 20 years. His caretaker is George Craig, a former crocodile hunter who now runs Marineland Melanesia, a shrine dedicated to crocodiles on the island. It is quite a remarkable place, which is entirely reflective of how remarkable George himself is. You see, George loves crocodiles with the kind of passion that you rarely encounter. He respects them enormously. This is why we were very keen to meet and talk with him on a recent trip to Cairns. The truth is we could have talked for weeks about crocodiles, but we only had a few hours. George was very keen to show us his pride and joy, the largest living saltwater crocodile in captivity. His name is Cassius, and he originally came from the Northern Territory. At the time he was a little under 18 feet (5.5 metres) long, but he's now around 18.5 feet (5.6 metres). Like many extremely large crocodiles, Cassius is as gentle as a lamb around his keeper, unless some food is dangled in front of him. Then, looking remarkably like a dinosaur from a forgotten age, he explodes into action and grabs the food from George. The word "grab" doesn't really do it justice, as the item of food often explodes under the pressure of those jaws. It's a remarkable and sobering sight, and if you ever need reminding how awesome crocodiles really are then a trip to Green Island to see Cassius is essential. Don't forget to talk to George Craig - rarely will you find anyone who knows more about crocodiles and understands them like he does.