An ancient saltwater crocodile has been shot dead by the Queensland government after it ate a dog that wandered into its territory. Experts have questioned the decision, saying it appears more like open revenge than appropriate management.
Experts estimate the 4.4-metre male was between 60 and 70 years old. Gunggandi Traditional Owner Warren Martens told Yahoo News Australia killing the animal was “cruel and inhumane” and that rangers “should have known better not to do it” as it was culturally insensitive.
“Aboriginal people coexisted with these animals since the beginning of time, it’s far better to leave crocodiles in the wild and not go near them,” he said. “We need to have a whole new discussion about how we manage their existence, rather than culling them out.”
Who was responsible for the dog getting eaten?
The decision to shoot the crocodile was made after he was filmed taking a dog from a nearby camp at Napranum, in Cape York. Images supplied to Yahoo by Community Representation of Crocodiles show the animal after it was captured and shot. The advocacy group is supported by Bob Irwin, who has called on authorities to rethink its lethal control measures.
Matt Cornish, a Cairns wildlife guide, described the incident as an “error on behalf of humans” for allowing the dogs near the water. You can see the video of the attack here:
“This crocodile has done exactly what it naturally does, in taking that opportunity to have a feed,” he said. “This is not an error by the crocodile. Yet here we are where the crocodile has paid the ultimate price and been shot.”
Why there are calls for a rethink of croc management
While he doesn’t argue against authorities killing crocodiles if they have fatally attacked a human, he believes shooting one for eating “what’s really a stray animal” is “inappropriate”. “There seems to be the attitude of 'an eye for an eye', which I think is incredibly outdated,” he said.
Mr Cornish has called on the Queensland government to have a deeper look at its management policies. “If this is crocodile management, we’re doing something wrong. This is a protected species and at 4.4 metres it has earned the right to be in that waterway. To trap it and kill it is just appalling.”
Authorities explain why they killed croc
Following publication of this article, the Department of Environment (DES) issued a statement saying it took action after the Napranum Aboriginal Shire Council expressed safety concerns about the crocodile's presence.
Attempts to drive the crocodile away from the beach using non-lethal pellets were unsuccessful. "Humane euthanasia of crocodiles is only conducted as a last resort when there are no alternatives," a DES spokesperson said.
Because of the area's remoteness, DES said it couldn't humanely trap and relocate the crocodile to a farm or sanctuary because the species has a low survival rate when transported long distances by road.
"During the assessment wildlife officers observed concerning, bold behaviour by the animal and made the assessment that it represented an unacceptable risk to the safety of the community," a DES spokesperson said. "After consultation with the local community and Traditional Owners the decision was made that the animal should be humanely euthanised."
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