Controversial end to Queensland crocodile declared 'high risk'

·Environment Editor
·5-min read

A saltwater crocodile posing a “high risk” to a Queensland community has been shot after a controversial decision.

The choice to kill the animal follows an incident in February at Cape York when it came close to children swimming in a waterway.

Aged between 11 and 14, the children fled up a tree and were rescued by local police.

A shot of a salt water crocodile coming out of the water.
Crocodiles are routinely shot or removed by Queensland authorities if they are believed to pose a danger to humans. Source: Getty

Rangers were called to remove the animal this week after a call from the the mayor of Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire, Robbie Sands.

The animal's death removes “a weight off everybody's shoulders now”, Mr Sands told ABC News.

Bob Katter beyond 'angry' as crocodile numbers increase

A survey in July found crocodile numbers are on the increase and estimated to be between 20,000 to 30,000 individuals in the wild.

Cape York was found to have the highest density in the state, with about three animals per kilometre.

Katter's Australian Party want crocodiles removed from waterways so they can be enjoyed by humans. Source: AAP
Katter's Australian Party want crocodiles removed from waterways so they can be enjoyed by humans. Source: AAP

Federal Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, whose electorate takes in Kowanyama told Yahoo News Australia "angry" would be an understatement when it comes to describing how he feels about their growing numbers.

He argues fatal crocodile attacks in Queensland are higher than the reported five over the last decade, and cites a belief the animals are responsible for people simply vanishing without a trace.

When a crocodile kills you it's one of the most cruel deaths you could ever have — there's terror and there's pain.Bob Katter

Responding to protection legislation which has seen crocodiles flourish, he said residents of Far North Queensland have had their "parks and playgrounds taken off them" by what he calls "a bunch of city imbeciles".

"These people that love nature, they hate human beings, that is the real story," he said.

"They don't get upset when a little child is torn to pieces, in the most cruel manner humanly possible."

Shooting crocodiles can create dangerous situation

While killing crocodiles can give communities peace of mind, some experts believe the practice actually creates a more dangerous situation.

Crocodile tour guide David White told Yahoo News Australia removal can also "can create a false sense of security" among the human population.

"Everyone thinks that problem is fixed and they go swimming again because it's safe," he said.

"But they can swim thousands of kilometres and come in overnight and no one notices.

"They're so good at hiding, you just don't know if there's one there or not."

Mr White, who operates Solar Whisper Wildlife Tours on the Daintree River, said rather than "getting rid of them", people need to be educated on "how to live with them".

Dominant males can often keep the peace among crocodile populations, but once removed, younger males will often move into the territory and begin fighting.

"They've all got different personalities and some are more easygoing than others," Mr White said.

"When there are visible ones up on the bank all the time people do the right thing and still hit the water, but it's the sneaky one that sits on the bottom for hours that's going to hurt someone."

Call to reduce crocodiles to 1970s numbers

Katter's Australian Party MP Shane Knuth believes that rather than trying to live alongside crocodiles we should significantly cull them.

Describing the animal at Kowanyama as a "killer croc" he stressed it's "much better to see a crocodile die than see young kids get taken".

He said communities in his state are feeling a "measure of frustration and anger" because they are no longer able to swim in waterways.

Crocodile numbers have significantly increased since the 1970s. Source: Getty
Crocodile numbers have significantly increased since the 1970s. Source: Getty

"Back in the '70s here in North Queensland, we could swim in any waterhole, any beach, now you'd be lucky to come out alive," he said.

"This is a sad thing about it; even people that are kayaking are stalked by big crocs of four metres, even bigger."

Mr Knuth said the prevalence of crocodiles and the closure of beaches has had a great impact on the tourism industry.

In popular destinations like Port Douglas, he said there's a significant risk swimmers will be "ripped to pieces".

"We needed to get it to a point where it's back to what was in the 70s and 80s, when there was an acceptable risks to go and swim in those waterways," he said.

Crocodile was almost removed rather than shot

While the crocodile's death has ignited debate, the animal came close to being spared from the gun.

This was because it was originally believed to have been five metres long, which would have given the crocodile protected status as an “icon” under state law.

Sadly for the crocodile, Department of Environment rangers measured it at 3.5 metres on Tuesday, and it was killed.

A Queensland saltwater crocodile.
A Queensland saltwater crocodile.

“Due to the crocodile’s size and its immediate proximity within the town, adjacent to recreational areas, it presented a high risk to community safety,” a department spokesperson said.

“The animal was declared a problem crocodile and, as there was no other option to remove the animal safely, it was was humanely euthanised in situ.”

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