Queensland’s most colourful crocodile expert has lashed out at those behind a fishing influencer trend putting lives at risk.
Staring down the lens of his camera, Tommy Hayes begins his Instagram video by saying: “I’ve been trying to keep it PG and positive.” Clearly frustrated, he then lists the “stupid sh**” he’s seen “d*ckheads” doing in videos uploaded to YouTube and other social platforms.
Tourists have been responsible for a number of high-profile incidents involving crocodiles this year, but surprisingly it’s not them who are concerning him right now. “It’s not influencer dumb stuff — that seems to have stopped a bit,” he told Yahoo News Australia.
Instead, his video takes aim at Queensland fishing influencers uploading videos where they claim to have “accidentally” waded into waters where large salties are known to live and “they accidentally happen to be filming when the croc was there”.
“There are crocodile tracks all over the sand and they’re in thigh-deep water,” he says. “They’re having a laugh.”
Referencing the popular jingle, he concedes such behaviour would be a "dumb way to die" and he's concerned about people copying it. "There's a story in this because it keeps f**king happening," he said.
Who crocodile videos are putting at risk
After posting the video on Tuesday, Tommy revealed to Yahoo what had got him so angry. Not only do the videos put those filming them in danger, they also encourage young followers to do the same thing.
“Young dudes watch it and they’re going to go, 'that’s cool, I can do it too',” he said.
In some videos, the creators tell their audience to be careful, but Tommy doesn’t think that balances out the potential harm their content could be doing. And sadly if a crocodile happens to hurt one of them it will pay the ultimate price.
“People say let natural selection take its course and things like that, that’s all very well if these idiots get eaten. But what people don’t realise is that if they get attacked or killed, the crocodile gets killed. There’s no relocation… it’s farm or death.”
Crocodile warning follows death of bear featured in YouTube video
Tommy's warning comes after a bear was trapped and killed by Japanese authorities after it was featured in a YouTube video.
The clip showed an influencer bringing his Uber Eats order of pizza and chips into a forest where the large predators were known to live. He then claimed to be surprised when one pushed down his table and ate his food.
After the clip was aired, there were increased reports about the bear in the area and she was trapped and killed. Her three cubs are believed to be in danger of starving to death.
Other incidents that have angered Tommy
Tommy concedes some of his videos also feature encounters with crocodiles, but he is trained in crocodile management, trapping and tracking. Trying to educate and excite viewers about the ancient reptiles, he always keeps his distance, stays CrocWise, and explains the situation clearly.
In March, another fishing influencer left him livid after he jumped into “croc-infested waters” at Bloomfield, north of Cairns.
Although bad tourist behaviour seems to have waned, a woman near the Daintree Rainforest recently angered him when he caught her throwing rocks at a crocodile.
After telling her to stop, he recalls she justified her behaviour by saying the crocodile wasn’t doing anything and she wanted some “action”.
He’s also found fish parts and chickens attached to rope by tourists attempting to bait crocodiles.
“When you feed them it’s normally innocent, and it’s a cool thing to have a connection to a wild animal,” he said.
“But what people don’t understand is that the authorities see a crocodile that’s not scared and label it aggressive, dangerous behaviour. And when it’s not scared, they take it out.”
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.