The crowd watched in fascinated horror as Bredl approached the lake with a chicken carcass in one hand. Then something stirred under the surface, and Bredl did the unthinkable. He brought the chicken splashing down on the water, luring a huge primordial shape from the murk.
The man in question is Rob Bredl, a southern Australian naturalist renowned for his daring antics around dangerous predators. However, he’s probably better known as the Barefoot Bushman, so-called for his tendency to walk around sans footwear. And that’s mighty brave, considering his occupation.
Bredl uses his expert wildlife knowledge to make TV shows about some of the country’s most dangerous creatures. Fans watch his documentaries, which have titles such as Deadly Predators and Killer Instinct, in 36 languages across the world. Moreover, animal expertise even runs in the family.
The Barefoot Bushman’s father, Josef Bredl, was a snake specialist who made a name for himself catching serpents. In fact, he was so distinguished in his field that experts named Morelia bredli, or Bredl’s python, after him. He wasn’t just knowledgeable about snakes, either.
Bredl senior originally made a living hunting crocodiles, a passion that his sons went on to share. In their early years, young Rob and his siblings joined their father on his hunts. Josef even had his own crocodile when Rob was just nine years old.
Josef later established a wildlife sanctuary, something else that the Barefoot Bushman has in common with his father. Not only does Rob own the Blue Planet Wildlife Park, but also the family-run Bredl Wildlife Farm (BWF). It’s an Australian petting zoo where visitors can experience animals up close.
At the BWF, you can hug adorable koalas, kiss deer and handle reptiles – including baby crocodiles. Obviously, the more dangerous animals such as adult crocs are off limits to the public. But they can still be observed from a safe distance, and it’s quite a show.
That’s because the farm’s visitors have the opportunity to witness the Barefoot Bushman handfeeding the crocodiles himself. It’s such an impressive show that there are several popular viral videos of the spectacle. Take the one featured on Viralhog, for example.
The footage begins with Bredl at the side of a body of water holding one of his hands under the surface. The water’s too murky to see much, but when he lifts the hand, he’s holding something incredible. It’s the tooth-filled maw of a huge crocodile.
The Barefoot Bushman casually drops the snout and turns to address his off-camera observers. “What I just did should have been impossible,” Bredl tells the crowd. “That’s if what you’ve seen on TV and have been told about crocodiles is true.”
“The reason he didn’t react,” Bredl continues, “is because he reacts to certain stimuli. Splashing is one of them.” The Bushman proves his point by stamping on the ground near the water’s edge, but the crocodile doesn’t respond. Bredl knows what will elicit a response, though.
He approaches a chicken carcass on the ground nearby and lifts it up over the murky water. Then, he brings it down again, slapping the water’s surface with a splash. The hidden giant responds instantly and rears its head from the depths.
Bredl uses the chicken to lure his crocodile out, revealing the full size of the previously concealed monster. The beast is huge; so big, in fact, that the observers can barely fit the whole reptile on their camera screens. And then the Barefoot Bushman does something even more amazing.
Bredl’s so confident in his crocodile knowledge that he actually sits on the crocodile! He explains to the audience that he’s sitting in a “safe spot” on the reptile. For his part, the croc seems oblivious to the Bushman’s presence as he eats his chicken.
The Barefoot Bushman subsequently explains how the crocodile’s powerful legs can carry the reptile surprisingly quickly over short distances. Then the beast decides to return to the water, with Bredl bouncing on its back all the way to the lakeside. The crowd can’t help but gasp at the sight of the huge predator.
In another YouTube video, the Bushman tells audiences that crocodiles aren’t as unpredictable as their reputations might suggest. He said that it’s actually quite the contrary. Indeed, Bredl attributes the fact that he still has all his fingers and toes to the predictability of crocs.
However, on September 22, 2016, that almost changed when Bredl made a slip-up during a show. He was feeding a 14-foot crocodile called Tripod, when a piece of meat became stuck in the reptile’s teeth. The Bushman later recounted the event in an interview with Australian TV show 60 Minutes.
Bredl said, “Normally I’d close his eyes or flick it out [with a stick].” But on that day, he did neither of those things and reached into Tripod’s mouth instead. The giant croc crunched through the Bushman’s hand and tried to pull his prey into the water.
The Bushman’s nephew, Zeb, thankfully saved him, but not before Tripod took a chunk out of Bredl’s leg. Consequently, paramedics rushed to the scene and whisked him to an emergency ward. Luckily, although he suffered “severe lacerations,” doctors managed to save Bredl’s limbs.
Bredl attributes his mistake to a “brain fart,” and he maintains that Tripod was not at fault. “I thought [Bredl] made an error that was going to cost him his life,” Zeb said. “I was just lucky to get him out of there.” The Barefoot Bushman is recovering from his ordeal.