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Shock crocodile beheading on Queensland beach could be 'retribution'

The decapitation of a crocodile on a Far North Queensland beach has angered locals.

WARNING - GRAPHIC CONTENT: The discovery of a decapitated crocodile on a Far North Queensland beach has sparked fear the animals are being targeted out of "retribution". The shocking find has angered many locals who love seeing them in their natural Daintree environment.

While the cause of the large male’s death has not been established, witnesses who examined its body at Cow Bay Beach on Thursday described seeing machete hack marks around its neck.

Although it’s understood the crocodile has been buried, wildlife advocates are urging the Department of Environment (DES) and the RSPCA to conduct a thorough investigation and complete a necropsy.

An image of the decapitated crocodile.
A decapitated crocodile was found at a Queensland beach. Source: Tommy Hayes

That call is being spearheaded by Community Representation of Crocodiles (Croc), an advocacy collective formed by a number of conservationists including Bob Irwin, and Indigenous leaders.

The group has criticised the Queensland government’s often lethal response to “managing” crocodiles, arguing this approach is often unnecessary and can harm the species’ public image.

“Time and time again we are seeing the authorities adopt the eye for an eye mentality, and labelling crocs problems — for behaving like crocodiles,” spokesperson Amanda French told Yahoo News Australia.

A close up of the decapitated crocodile.
Locals believe the crocodile was likely decapitated with a machete. Source: Tommy Hayes

Three crocodile mutilation theories

Its believed the crocodile may have been killed by a person and then decapitated, with three main theories surfacing:

  • Retribution for taking a swimming hole.

  • Decapitated for a trophy kill.

  • Killed by another crocodile during a territorial dispute.

Why retribution could have driven crocodile kill

Ms French fears the crocodile at Cow Bay Beach was killed deliberately. “We've heard reports that it was a local swimming hole that people were sick of being told they can't swim in. So potentially it’s retribution to say we want to have a swimming hole back.”

Saltwater crocodiles are a protected species and Ms French is urging authorities to revamp their public messages and warn Queenslanders that harming them or taking trophies are offences. Being over four metres in length, the crocodile had greater protection than smaller specimens. “We do worry that crocs are being targeted and don’t have the same level of protection as other species due to their bad reputation,” Ms French said.

Queensland authorities investigating crocodile death

RSPCA Queensland said it understands DES is investigating and it will assist if needed. DES told Yahoo it the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service was unable to determine the cause of death of a crocodile it examined at Cow Bay Beach.

"The investigation into the death and possible decapitation of the crocodile is ongoing. (DES) is appealing for information from the public about the death of the animal and the whereabouts of its skull," it said.

"People are reminded that it is unlawful to deliberately harm or kill crocodiles or be in possession of a deceased crocodile or parts of a deceased crocodile.

"Crocodiles in Queensland are a vulnerable species and are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. The maximum penalty for the deliberate harm or killing of crocodiles in Queensland is $14375.00."

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