Attempts to kill crocodiles in north Queensland are giving the region a bad reputation, according to a tourism operator in the region.
Steve Watson runs Whitsunday Crocodile Safaris on the Proserpine River and said there had been several attempts to kill a saltwater crocodile known as Fat Guts.
“The croc has probably been baited four times that we know of in the past 12 months,” he said.
“It’s pretty embarrassing when you’re cruising along the river and you’ve got a croc with a rope hanging out of its mouth and we’ve got to explain what it’s all about.”
Crocodiles on the move
Crocodiles are a protected species in Queensland, but some people are worried more reptiles are encroaching on urban areas.
The Queensland leader of Katter’s Australian Party (KAP), Rob Katter, said many swimming holes and rivers in the state’s north were no longer safe because of crocodiles.
“The response we’ve had to give from Government to this point is we need to better educate people to swim with crocodiles. That’s nonsense trying to say that to people in the first place,” he said.
“There’s no question the croc population has exploded in recent times. There’s been a 30 per cent increase in sightings alone.”
Debate about managing crocs
The KAP has reintroduced proposed legislation in the Queensland Parliament to manage the state’s crocodile population, that would allow crocodile safaris and other management options.
But Mr Watson said it would not work.
“Taking away the larger controlling animals is actually going to create havoc, because you’ve got all the guys waiting in line for his job. It’ll go crazy with the crocs trying to compete to be the top dog.
“We nearly annihilated them, took them out completely. They’ve been protected in Queensland for over 40 years now. They’re slowly recovering to normal numbers.
“Their numbers don’t just keep increasing non-stop as all the politicians will tell you.”
Mr Watson said he would like to see greater action taken against people trying to injure or kill crocodiles.
“You just hear it so much nowadays, a protected species means nothing. People can do what they like and the penalties are very, very minimal, a slap on the risk for things like that,” he said.
International tourist Ruby Spinner said she believed crocodiles should be left alone.
“I don’t they think they should be killed unless it’s a good reason and hunting isn’t a good enough reason,” she said.
The State Government said the culling of problem crocodiles was not a solution and would give the public a false sense of safety.
It is conducting a three year survey of crocodile numbers in north Queensland.
So far, more than 1,200 kilometres of waterways have been surveyed since the project began in 2017.
The Government said data from surveys would be released when the monitoring program had been completed and results properly analysed.