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Five-year-old girl survives crocodile attack

A five-year-old girl has survived an encounter with a crocodile in northern Australia just as a coroner began an inquest into a crocodile attack that killed an 11-year-old girl last year.

Police Duty Superintendent Mike Murphy said today the five-year-old's leg was deeply gouged, probably from the rear foot of a crocodile, while she was swimming yesterday in Caledon Bay. He said it was unclear whether the 6.5ft (2m) saltwater crocodile attacked the girl or whether she disturbed it.

The incident follows an attack on a fisherman last week and renews focus on the growing population of crocodiles in the Northern Territory.

The inquest will look into the death of Briony Goodsell, one of four people killed by crocodiles in a seven-month period in 2008 to early 2009.

Both saltwater and freshwater crocodiles were hunted to near extinction in Australia but have become plentiful in the tropical north since they became protected by law in 1971.

Increasing attacks on humans have led to calls for greater culling and suggestions that trophy-hunting safaris be part of the management plan. A plan approved last October rejected safaris but increased the number of eggs and animals that can be harvested for farming, food and export.

Saltwater crocodiles are the world's largest reptile and grow up to 23ft (7m) long. They are more likely to attack humans than the smaller freshwater crocodiles.

The Northern Territory is estimated to have 80,000 saltwater crocodiles, the highest number in Australia.