A crocodile tour operator has warned more crocs may follow after a potential sighting at North Stradbroke Island, 30 kilometres southeast of Brisbane.
If the sighting is confirmed it would be one of the most southern sightings of a crocodile in Australia.
A group of kayakers say they spotted a three-metre crocodile at Myora Springs on the island on Wednesday. Rangers from Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science are conducting a full-scale search, involving vessel-based crews and a drone, in a bid to confirm the sighting.
On Thursday afternoon they confirmed that they hadn't yet found any evidence of the presence of a crocodile, and had flown in two experienced crocodile management wildlife officers from North Queensland to assist in the investigation. If a crocodile is found on North Stradbroke, regardless of its size, “it will be "targeted for removal from the wild.”
The department described the sighting as “extremely unusual,” saying the island is “not considered to be a typical crocodile habitat.” Traditionally ‘croc country’ begins at the Boyne River south of Gladstone, almost 600 kilometres north of North Stradbroke Island.
But David White, the owner and operator of Solar Whisper Wildlife Tours in North Queensland’s Daintree, says while it’s unusual “it is possible".
“It is a long way south [but] there are historical records of them being in the Logan River in Brisbane,” he told Yahoo News Australia.
“It's just that they haven't been seen there for quite a long time, 50 or 60 years, because they were hunted so heavily, almost to extinction." Historical records show a crocodile was caught in the Logan River, south of Brisbane, in 1905.
Croc population ‘recovering’
Mr White went on to say 95 per cent of the croc population were killed for their skins before they became protected in 1974. He thinks the hunting ban has contributed to their gradual return further south.
“Now that they're protected, they're slowly recovering and the world's warming up so they might be heading a bit further south,” he said. “They’re just coming back to their normal habitat where they’d been living for millions of years”.
“Over the next 50 years or so, we could see more crocs on North Stradbroke Island. It will be an issue in the future.”
Mr White said a smaller population of crocs over the last half a century has given the public a false sense of security on the water.
“Whole generations of Queenslanders have grown up in an unnatural crocodile population,” he said. “They've been swimming wherever they wanted to and now that the crocs are coming back, people are jumping up and down saying my parents swam here their whole lives, my grandparents swam here their whole lives, they had no problems, why can’t I swim here.”
“The difference is that back then, when their parents and their grandparents were swimming there they were hunted everywhere. People were going to the most remote parts of Australia to shoot crocodiles to make a living.”
New video of potential croc sighting emerges
Following reports of the potential sighting on North Stradbroke Island, a paddle boarder has come forward with a video she took last Thursday of what she now thinks may be a crocodile.
Jessica Bela has described seeing a “shape of what looked like a crocodile” above the waterline, telling The Courier Mail that she “freaked out a little".
While the Department of Environment and Science is yet to confirm either sightings, it is urging residents and visitors to stay away from Myora Springs. Mr White says the sighting will have caused a big stir on the island, especially among kayakers.
“That will be a bit of a worry for them because there is such a thing as too small of a boat to be in,” he said. “And if you got one [a crocodile] in a bad mood, it might just knock you off your kayak and eat you.”
“It’s just not advisable to go canoeing or kayaking in crocodile country, but what is crocodile country is up for debate and crocodiles don’t know.”
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