When I told my fellow Uproxx Life writers that I’d be in Australia for a wedding this month and was looking for a side trip, maybe in the Northern Territory (a part of Australia I’d never visited but which looked beautiful in Top End Wedding), they suggested a safari camp run by Nat Geo host and acclaimed conservationist Matt Wright. It sounded so good that signed on without even watching Wright’s show first.
Then I looked up the show and discovered that it’s called Monster Croc Wrangler. The first clip I saw showed Wright and his assistants, Jono and Wilo, standing on a tiny aluminum boat, nearly falling into a murky swamp as they tried to hook a 20-foot croc. My first thought was What the hell have I gotten myself into?
Monster Croc Wrangler is back for a fourth season, which debuts this week on Nat Geo Wild. But while our natural fear of gigantic crocodiles and natural love of Aussie wild men make a great hook for a show, for Wright the press is just a way to bolster his conservation efforts. So while he seems like a wild adrenaline junkie on the surface (and I’m not entirely convinced that he isn’t) the thrills mask a genuine passion for helping humans and crocodiles coexist — through smart policies like egg collecting and helping satisfy commercial demand for things like crocodile skin and meat in ways that actually preserve wild crocodile populations rather than decimate them.
It’s worked. Crocodiles’ rebounding numbers are a conservation success story.
It’s a heady time for Wright, who’s expecting his first miniature croc wrangler with his wife, Kaia, any day now. While “crocodile relocator” sounds like a fake job an Aussie would use to pick up women, Australia is actually one of the most urbanized countries in the world — with the vast majority of the population living in cities and near the coasts. So in some ways, Wright is nurturing a disappearing skill set in one of the planet’s most vast wilderness areas. Wright’s child will no doubt grow up with one foot in the modern urban world and one foot in the wild.
On the eve of both fatherhood and a fourth season, we hoped Wright could help tell us what makes the Northern Territory so special, and perhaps more selfishly, give me some tips on not getting eaten by crocodiles.
So how did you end up with this job?
As a kid I grew up around wildlife, loved it. Wanted to be around and rescued it, and brought it home and then it just sort of grew into more of a profession. And from mice and cattle to collecting crocodile eggs to catching crocs, you know? So I traveled the world just sort of working with wildlife.
Where was home?
Australia was home, the southern part of Australia when I started. Always as a kid we traveled a lot and our family, our whole lives, diving off the south coast of Australia, that was always with a lot of big sharks. And then we’d sort of head up north for some cattle stations we were mustering, and the choppers. Then up to Cape York, so we would cover so much country in Australia.
And now you’re in the Northern Territory, obviously. Do you have favorite places to go in the Northern Territory?
The whole territory is pretty much my favorite place. It’s so diverse, and with the helicopter, I can cover so many places. During the wet season, we pretty much cover all the coastal country and there’s sort of no part of it that’s extra special. It’s all special.
How much competition do you have in the relocating-wild-animals business?
There’s no competition there, we work a bit with the Parks and Wildlife but there’s no one else who really does it. There’s a few hunters up there that try and hunt, I try to sort of put a stop to it. If there are any big crocs, we’re the people that are going to get called to step in and move them out.
How did you become the people that they called when they need a big croc moved somewhere else?
Just experience, I think. I was always handy with wildlife. Whether it was bringing in brumbies and wild cattle and then crocs or even working over in Canada catching bears, and wolf, and caribou. Reputation is what it was and it just came from there.
I saw some footage from previous seasons where you and your partners are in like a rickety boat trying to hook a crocodile, and one of them almost falls out of the boat. So, uh… what’s the insurance like for a show like this?