One of the most recognisable landmarks in Normanton is Krys the Crocodile, otherwise known as Krys The Savannah King.
This replica monument statue is scaled to the true size of a giant 8.63m or 28 ft 4 inches estuarine (saltwater) crocodile, which is the largest to ever be captured in the world! The unlucky crocodile was shot on MacArthur Bank, Norman River in July 1957 by Krystina Pawlowski.
However, there is conflicting information around the photo, as some sources state that the original photo was taken in 1914 off the Roper River in the Northern Territory. With the original copies and records being long gone due to floods, there will always remain an air of mystery around the truth of Krys the Savannah King and the largest crocodile ever captured.
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Krys Crocodile aka Krys The Savannah King
The crocodile has been nicknamed ‘Krys’ after Krystina Pawlowski, the famous Polish crocodile hunter of the Gulf region, who shot this huge creature.
Interestingly, she ended up regretting the kill and transformed her life’s work from ‘hunter’ to ‘conservationist’ with her husband.
They later ran a crocodile conservation park in Queensland. She was apparently very regretful about shooting the enormous creature, especially after realising that they couldn’t use the skin as he was too big to move and too old to use.
Original Photo of ‘Krys the Savannah King’
Below is the only known photo of the famous crocodile. At first glance, the crocodile looks gigantic. Experts have commented that a photography technique called forced perspective has been used.
This is basically where optical illusion makes an object appear closer, further away, larger or smaller than it actually is.
If you look carefully below, Krys and Ron are kneeling down and are probably further back from the crocodile than it appears, plus the crocodile is undoubtably bloated.
‘Krys the Croc’ still gets our full respect, he looks bloody huge!
Krys and her husband Ron met in Perth, Australia after having fled their European war-torn homes respectively. After an adventurous past, they found themselves stranded in Karumba, a northern town in the Gulf of Queensland, during the wet season. Ron got to work building a shack and fed his family with fish and wild pigs.
Their entry into the crocodile business began in an unexpected twist. As Ron was working on the car one day, his son ran up yelling, “crocodile, Barbara!” Low and behold, there was a 12-foot (3.7m) crocodile to 4-year-old Barbara’s back as she played on the beach. Ron reached into the car, pulled out his gun and blew the crocodiles head off.
An old fella in town helped them skin it before they sent it off to Brisbane dealer who gave them 10 quid for it. Given that a basic weekly wage back in those days was 13 quid, they thought they might be on to something.
Ron went on to build a boat from scrap parts and the couple set about to eventually become very successful and famous Crocodile Hunters of the region. Krys was quite the blonde bombshell with her iconic red lipstick and nail polish, juxtaposing the gruesome, muddy work.
Turning over a new leaf
By 1956, Ron and Krys had built the country’s first experimental crocodile farm, situated in Karumba. They were breeding animals from eggs found in the wild and studying their feeding habits. Their aim was to show that with good management and crocodile conservation farms, the species could be preserved. The political stance of the day was, “If it moves, shoot it. If it grows, cut it down.”
The government recognised the Pawlowski’s influence and went to great lengths to silence them. The leasehold on the crocodile farm land was revoked and sump oil was dumped into their pools. Each croc was cleaned by hand by Ron and Krys with detergent and they luckily only lost one life.
Their house was raided for illegal firearms, which were used in a documentary they had made, but having had a tip-off from a police officer, they were able to return the borrowed revolver in time.
Time to protect
In 1972 Ron was invited to give evidence in the House of Representatives on the subject of Wildlife Conservation.
He was able to show the committee that the wild crocodile population had declined by 98% since the 1950’s, just over twenty, short years. His recommendation was to put a total ban on croc hunting, which the government went ahead with.
It’s estimated that the Pawlowski’s shot and killed 10,000 crocodiles between them with Krys only missing three times.
Her regret and empathy towards the demise of the crocodile numbers during those years really shone through with her conservation efforts. Ron reckons that if he was offered one million dollars to shoot one now, he wouldn’t.
When you see the sheer size of the 1:1 scale monument of Krys The Savannah King, sitting on the main street of Normanton, you can understand the scepticism around the story with the original photo being lost in the 1974 floods. Krys the Crocodile has, however, made the Guinness Book of World Records.
Things to do in Normanton
There are two BIG Things in Normanton to check off your Big Things list:
- BIG Crocodile (Krys the Savannah King)
- BIG Barramundi (at the Gulflander Hotel)
If you don’t already have yours, you can either download the full Aussie Big Things Checklist or grab the Queensland one below.
QLD Big Things Checklist
Tick off over 150 Big Things as you travel around Queensland!
- 17-page checklist
- Pre-filled with 150+ items
- Categorised into 6 regions
- QLD Regional Map
- Full street addresses
- Record finds & dates
- DIGITAL & PRINTABLE
Ride the Gulflander
Take a trip on one of Australia’s most iconic old trains, the Gulflander. The train line was first built in 1889 to connect the once booming river port of Normanton to the bustling gold fields of Croydon (155km southeast of Normanton).
The journey will take you through the Gulf Savannah landscape as you explore what life used to be like in northwest Queensland 100 years ago.
The Buildings of Normanton
Take yourself on a driving tour around the streets of Normanton to check out the cool, quirky and colourful buildings spotted around town.
From the Purple Pub to the yellow butcher, Normanton really know how to add some character to an otherwise bland landscape.
For the full list of 16 awesome things to do in Normanton, click on the link below.
Free Camping in Normanton
There are two great free camps within the Normanton area, which are perfect for travellers as they head north or south along the Burke Development Road.
Free Camps for Normanton:
- Normanton SC RV Camp (in town, 48-hour limit)
- Flinders River Bush Camp (60km south, no time limit)
See the full post with reviews, info and photos on both Normanton Free Camps below.