Would you let your baby swim in croc-infested waters?

Water danger ... The photos of Dexter playing at Cahills Crossing.
Water danger ... The photos of Dexter playing at Cahills Crossing. Photo: Facebook

It's been almost 10 years since the late Steve Irwin shocked the world by holding his then newborn son Robert just metres away from a giant crocodile while feeding the animal at the family's Australia Zoo home. 

But it seems some parents still seem to think it's acceptable, and perhaps even entertaining, to take babies into areas inhabited by the killer reptiles.

Haley Mackenzie's partner took photographs of her nine-month-old son Dexter splashing in the water at the Northern Territory's infamous croc-infested Cahills Crossing.

Some who saw the photos posted on Facebook were outraged at the lack of care being shown for the baby boy's safety. But Haley defended the pictures, saying she trusted her partner, who had taken her son to the river to go fishing with friends.

"I know how the photo looks, a couple of people have told me that it looked a bit dangerous," the Northern Territory mum said. "At the time the river was completely down, he's at the edge of the water and there were heaps of people around him."

Granted, I don't know a whole lot about the feeding habits of crocodiles, but to me that kind of logic sounds misguided at best - and life-threatening for her son at worst.

Isn't that kind of like saying "I let my baby play on the road, but it wasn't peak hour and there were plenty of people around to jump between him and a Mack truck should one happen to hurtle towards him"?

Cahills Crossing is on the East Alligator River, about 200km east of Darwin. Saltwater crocodiles measuring up to 5m are regularly spotted in the area.

Parks Australia spokeswoman Margot Marshall says nobody should be swimming at Cahills Crossing, and that there are warning signs in place advising people to stay out of the water.

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The Kakadu National Park website also warns visitor about the chances of crocodile attacks. "Always be aware that crocodiles may be present anywhere that there is water," it reads. "Unless there is clear signage that it is safe to swim, assume that crocodiles may be present." 

When it comes to personal safety, adults are responsible for making their own decisions about what risks they choose to take.

But surely if it is a child's safety in question, the majority of parents would agree the most sensible course of action is to obey warning signs put in place by authorities with knowledge of the area and its dangers ... particularly signs that read "Crocodile infested waters. Do not swim here".

Following international outrage surrounding the Irwin baby incident in January 2004, the Queensland Government conducted a review of guidelines in relation to children and crocodile enclosures. The new guidelines state that children are only allowed in an enclosure if they are part of a strict long-term training program.

One can only imagine that crocodiles in the wild should be treated with at least the same level of caution.

Crocodile expert Mick Pitman also criticized Irwin for taking his baby into the closure back in 2004. "We are talking about a man eater and it should be treated with the respect it deserves,'' he said at the time.

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