Vicki Lowing is known as the Croc Lady.
For more than 20 years, the wildlife educator has kept crocodiles as pets – she lives with five of them in her suburban Rockbank home.
Three of the reptiles moved with her from New South Wales about a decade ago, but her float – the name for a group of crocs – has grown to include two babies.
Her unconventional lifestyle picked up widespread attention in recent weeks when she featured in a short video documentary that went viral with more than two million views online.
Ms Lowings has dedicated her life to caring for her animals, which include 12 year-old saltwater crocodile Jilfia, or “Jilly”, who has grown to 2.6 metres and lives in a bungalow at the back of the Rockbank property.
She also owns two fresh water crocs that live indoors – Johnie, a 22-year-old female and 11-year-old male Fovian – with their two babies, JJ and FJ, named after their parents.
“As a kid I always wanted one and in 1979, when I was 22, I got my first one,” Ms Lowings said. “Nothing was known about crocodiles when I first got one … the crocs have taught me more than any book would.”
Community members are so intrigued with her pets, they’ve helped to raise nearly $3000 through an online crowdfunding campaign to help Ms Lowing build an enclosure in her backyard.
She said her goal was to dispel crocodile myths.
“It’s said that they only eat rotten meat – that’s not true,” Ms Lowings said.
“They are very sensitive animals, they’re very intelligent and they have emotions.
“They are very much misunderstood because they are portrayed as instinctive killers.
“Like any animal in the wild, they kill to eat … but there is also another side to them that I’ve seen. If given the right stimulation, they’re an entirely different animal.”
The high-maintenance pets live on a diet of whole fish, chicken, rats and mice, she said.
“Mine are a bit spoilt because they don’t like feathers and fur, so Jilly will sometimes get chicken wings, which I supplement with vitamins and minerals,” she said.
Despite her love for the creatures,
Ms Lowing warns others to be cautious.
“A lot more people are keeping crocodiles as pets in Victoria now, which I don’t really condone,” she said.
“They are a specialist animal. I have all the necessary permits and licences for them.
“People think I’m crazy because I have a salty, but people own horses that can kick you and seriously hurt you.
“You have to know the animal and how to handle them.”