The Crocodile Hunters
Krystyna "Krys" Pawlowski at first glance would be the most unlikely crocodile hunter you could imagine, however in 1957, she nabbed an Australian saltwater crocodile which was said to measure 28 feet.
Krystyna and Roman immigrated from Poland in the aftermath of WWII.
Roman "Ron" Powlowski(a) was part of the underground when he was a young teenager. His father was killed and his mother sent to prison. He was captured and sent to a German camp in Slovakia. He escaped, went on to serve in the US army, ending up in Australia.
Krys Batowska had her own tale of heartbreak. Her father was arrested by the Russians and exiled to Siberia. She never saw him again. As part of a prisoner of war exchange she was sent to England where she married her first husband. In 1949, the marriage ended and she left for Australia with her three children.
In 1955, Ron and Krys crossed paths in Perth, and married after a week of their meeting. They moved to Karumba where Ron was engaged in gold prospecting.
Like many changes in one's life, the path is set by the most unexpected turn of events. The family was by the river, when the adults heard one of the boys yell "Barbara, the crocodile!" Barbara was the boy's 3-year-old sister who was being stalked by a 12-footer. Ron Pawlowski grabbed a rifle and shot the croc between the eyes.
Someone in the town helped them skin it, and a dealer in Brisbane paid them 10 pounds for it. This was equivalent to about a week's wages in those days.
Ron Pawlowski saw opportunity and he built a small boat known as a humpy from scraps found at a meatworks. They christened it the "Joey". Thus the family embarked on their career as crocodile hunters.
The family lived in an outback, tin shack and ate crocodile meat. Despite sometimes not having electricity, Jerzy "George" Pawlowski recalls them as some of the best days of his life. The family ventured into inhospitable terrain as they hunted crocs, all the while learning more about their quarry.
The Pawlowskis aimed to shoot the animals behind the ears or through the eyes so they would die immediately.
In July, 1957, Krys killed the 28 footer that brought her fame as a relentless crocodile hunter. The animal lay asleep on the banks of a beach in the Gulf of Carpentaria. It was so big that they were unable to move it and harvest the skin.
Over the next 15 years, they killed from 5,000 to 10,000 "salties" as the crocodiles are known, with Krys supposedly missing only 3 shots. Prior to her arrival in Australia she had never fired a rifle.
She learned how to skin the crocs, faster than most and would do so right after a kill.
Ron once told reporters, "She was better than me with a pistol and she was much better with a rifle at moving targets from a boat. We both could hit a bottle top at 100 yards, but Krys could shoot through the same hole the second time."
This earned her the moniker "One Shot". She became an expert not only as a hunter, but as a taxidermist. She was also recognized for her coiffed blonde hair, red manicured nails and scarlet lipstick worn even when on the hunt.
Her son George described where she competed against another croc hunter from up north, who claimed no one could skin a crocodile faster than him. She skinned, cleaned and salted her kill before he was anywhere near finishing.
Eventually the Pawlowski gave up hunting for conservation. During their years of stalking their quarry they noted their mating and eating habits. They became experts in crocodile behavior.
The rivers once thronged by crocodiles were decimated by other hunters who came to make their living the same as the Pawlowskis
In 1965, the couple started the first crocodile farm in the area. They raised hatchlings from eggs found in the wild, with hopes of farming, conserving and managing the crocodile population. Ron Pawlowski became a self taught photographer and documentarian in the process. Their children hand dug the pools and helped out around the farm.
The political climate of the day didn't favor conservation, and efforts were made to silence the Pawlowski's message. The lease on their farmland was rescinded and sump oil was dumped into their pools where they kept the crocs. They hand cleaned each animal with detergent, only losing one.
In an act foreshadowing Australia's present-day authoritarian tactics, their house was raided for an illegal revolver they used in a documentary. The search yielded nothing since a tip off from a local policeman gave them a heads up and they returned it to its owner. Eventually they had to shut down after a drawn-out battle with the Queensland government.
Times changed and in 1972, Ron Pawlowski gave evidence in the House of Representatives about Wildlife Conservation. He described how in the last 20 years the croc population had declined by 80%. Based on his recommendation the government banned all crocodile hunting.
Later on Krys said she regretted killing the 28-foot reptile as it lay snoozing on the banks of the Norman River.
A replica of the doomed reptile, named "Krys The Savannah King" is stationed in the middle of the town of Normanton.
Present day George Pawlowski is the owner of Kryscroc Australia. It was established in 1989, in the town of Normanton. They buy and sell tanned crocodile leather products. His family's farm laid the foundation for the leather industry in this part of Australia.
Urban Myth or Reality?
Ron Pawlowski went on to supply a picture that allegedly depicted the 28-footer his wife Krys shot in the summer of 1957. He estimated that it weighed in at two tons.
At first glance the animal appears enormous, however when you take a closer look at the figures next to it, used to give it scale, the actual size is difficult to determine. Also the fact that the people in the picture appear to be dressed in an earlier time period then the 1950s. Some say the picture is from a hunt on the Roper River 50 years prior.
Pictures taken by Ron were said to be lost "in the 1974 floods", and no one else in the town took a picture of what must have been quite a sight in Karumba.
Another source said the crocodile shot by Krys was added to the Guinness Book of Records, with photos supplied by Ron. There is no record of this at Guinness.
According to zoologists familiar with these types of crocodiles, a 28-foot saltie is far outside the maximum size for these animals, including the skull size.
Krystyna Pawlowski died in 2004.
According to Guinness (2022):
The crocodile was named after Ernesto "Lolong" Goloran Coñate. He was one of the veteran crocodile hunters from the Palawan Crocodile and Wildlife Reservation Center, who led the hunt. After weeks of stalking, the hunt for Lolong took its toll on Coñate's health. He died of a heart attack several days before the crocodile was captured.
Lolong was estimated to be at least 50 years old. The animal was suspected of eating a fisherman who went missing in the town of Bunawan, and also of consuming a 10-year-old girl whose headless body was discovered in 2009, shortly after she fell in a lake when the croc bumped the boat she was traveling in. He was also the primary suspect in the disappearance of water buffaloes in the known area.
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Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer