Sandra Kendall author of Saltie Mumma, chats to Reading Time reviewer Julie Murphy
JM: What made you choose this topic for your book?
SK: I had resisted creating a crocodile book for so long despite many people asking me for one. It seemed almost a cliché for a Northern Territory author but because Crocodiles are so firmly ingrained in our culture and psyche in the Top End a few ideas inevitably began brewing. As soon I started researching crocodiles in earnest I was hooked. Saltwater crocodiles are the largest reptiles in the world, they are like living dinosaurs. Little wonder that children here in the Top End, and everywhere, are fascinated by these awesome predators. Luckily, the wonderful people at Windy Hollow Books turned out to be crocodile fans too!
JM: As you live in Darwin, did any of your research for this book include watching crocodiles in the flesh?
SK: The joy of living in Darwin is that we have so many amazing and beautiful habitats close by and I love any excuse to get ‘out bush’ and watch animals! I dragged my family along for many croc spotting expeditions. We hired a ‘tinny’ at Corroboree Billabong and a huge Saltwater Crocodile surface about two metres from us! We also drove out to Cahills Crossing in Kakadu National Park which is a very notorious and reliable spot for Crocodile voyeurs. Occasionally we also have few Saltwater Crocodiles prowling our local beaches here in Darwin.
JM: What’s the most fascinating fact you discovered about saltwater crocodiles while researching this book?
SK: I love that they show such a high degree of maternal care, so unexpected in a reptile, this allowed me to depict another side to the Saltwater Crocodile. Rather than being mindless predators they are highly intelligent animals capable of sophisticated behaviour and use of tools for hunting. They utilise complex communications including a range of visual displays, scents and vocalisations including underwater vocalisations.
JM: What are the important themes or messages you wanted to convey in this book?
SK: The Saltwater Crocodile is a very effective and dangerous predator and it’s very important to respect them and their habitat, but I also wanted to celebrate the lesser known side of their character. Every animal has its place in the larger ecosystem no matter how big or scary. Crocodiles don’t exist solely to try and munch on people (though they certainly we give them half a chance!) but have their own social structures and functions within the environment.
JM: Thank you, Sandra, and best of luck with your future publications!
Read Julie’s review of Saltie Mumma here.