Environmentalist Bob Irwin has slammed a growing trend of influencers taunting crocodiles for likes and clicks, and is calling on the government to increase penalties.
“We will never protect the environment against idiots,” Mr Irwin, the father of the late media personality Steve Irwin, told Yahoo News Australia.
Following a number of attacks in northern Queensland, Mr Irwin clarified that Australia doesn’t have “a crocodile issue” it has a “people management issue” that must be addressed.
“The crocodiles are doing exactly what they did millions of years ago and they will continue to do it. What has changed is people's attitude,” he said. “One of the worst things that's happened is that social media is now at such a point that people have a problem with their ego and like to interfere with wildlife to make out how brilliant they are.”
Crocodiles and people can coexist easily without a problem, provided that people do the right thing and act responsibly.Bob Irwin
Influencers will face aggravated penalties for risky behaviour with crocodiles
Mr Irwin has teamed up with the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) and Traditional Owners, urging the Queensland government to close a legal loophole in the Nature Conservation Act that doesn’t penalise people for entering crocodile habitat.
He hopes the outcome will be that offenders are hit with tough new penalties similar to those enforced on K'Gari (Fraser Island) to protect dingoes.
The proposal would see four key changes:
A new offence for recklessly using crocodile habitat
Influencers face higher penalties for social media publication
The government will be given powers to map crocodile habitat
Those disturbing a crocodile will face tougher penalties
It has been backed by 40 Traditional Owners as well as scientists and business owners and would see existing rights maintained for "responsible" water users.
Queensland’s department of environment (DES) confirmed it is reviewing documents from the Environmental Defenders Office. It said its crocodile management response program is “rigorously informed by science”.
Crocodiles pay ultimate price for influencer behaviour
Not only does this behaviour put human lives at risk, crocodiles that show aggression towards humans often pay the ultimate price and are shot by state government rangers.
Traditional Owner Kathleen Walker told Yahoo that every time a crocodile is shot, it’s like losing a family member. “Killing a crocodile is like someone shooting our son, or uncle, or grandfather,” she said.
Auntie Walker said Bama (local Indigenous people) know to leave crocodiles alone and they want to help save the lives of others visiting the region. “If you don’t respect (crocodiles) and what they do, they’ll take you,” she said. “We want to talk to the non-Indigenous and explain our lore to them.”
She along with many Bama recognise signs that a crocodile is in the area, they include:
Their smell which is she describes as similar to fresh water eels
Watching bird behaviour around waterways
Queensland government urged to stop shooting crocodiles
From Wujal Wujal Country, north of Cape Tribulation, Auntie Walker has been critical of the government’s policy of shooting crocodiles that have shown aggression.
She was left devastated after a man filmed himself entering Bloomfield River, known-crocodile habitat, in February. The man was injured, his dog was killed, and the crocodile was shot by Queensland government rangers. “We don’t want them to shoot, if that crocodile is a troublemaker, biting all the time, we need to remove it,” she said.
Mr Irwin agrees with her. “I’ve caught enough crocodiles in my time to know exactly how that crocodile could have been caught. And it could have been caught easily and placed in somewhere else so it could live out its life,” he said.
“But the authorities in their wisdom decided to shoot not just that crocodile but another one as well, because it was the easy way out.”
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