Australian crocodile expert John Lever may have been defeated in his efforts to snare a single rogue reptile in Hong Kong, but his peers in Darwin have had a lot more luck. They have caught 180 crocodiles in the harbour of Australia's northern-most city in the last year, new figures show. The haul was the highest number for five years in a city plagued by the lethal beasts. The annual average over the last decade has been 110. The trapped crocs were relocated away from Darwin. Saltwater crocodiles in northern Australia have been protected from hunting for nearly 30 years, and conservationists say numbers have risen dramatically. Not only are there more crocs, they are getting larger. The techniques used by Northern Territory rangers differ little from those employed by Mr Lever, who was brought in to capture the Yuen Long crocodile in Hong Kong. It is thought to be a discarded pet or an escapee from a reptile farm in southern China. Rangers maintain about 20 steel cage traps around Darwin's busy harbour and container port, baiting them with dead chickens - just as Mr Lever did. Unlike Mr Lever, however, Darwin wildlife officials are free to operate away from the glare of television camera lights and packs of curious journalists. The attempt to snare the elusive Hong Kong croc turned into a media feeding frenzy which doomed the operation to failure from the outset. Most of the 'salties' trapped in Darwin Harbour have been about 2.5 metres long, although the biggest was nearly four metres long - easily powerful enough to kill a person. Captured animals are trussed up with rope and sent to crocodile farms in the Northern Territory to be eventually made into shoes, handbags and other leather goods. 'We'll never completely stop crocodiles coming into the harbour,' ranger Tom Nichols told the Northern Territory News. 'We capture one and another one moves into its place - not immediately, but it will come.' Although the last fatal attack in Darwin Harbour was more than a generation ago, there have been a number of minor attacks. In June a barmaid fought off a 1.7m-long crocodile which grabbed her leg as she sat near a boat ramp on the outskirts of Darwin. The woman, Chris Roberts, 34, was treated in hospital after repeatedly kicking the animal until it let go of her leg.