Foot­loose RON MOON

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CROC­O­DILES are back in the news again. Just a few weeks ago a woman at Thorn­ton Beach in the Dain­tree Na­tional Park went miss­ing, pre­sumed killed by a croc. Lo­cals re­ported see­ing a five-me­tre an­i­mal in the vicin­ity.

Now we could go on about the stu­pid­ity of peo­ple who choose to swim at night in waist-deep water where croc­o­dile warn­ing signs are prom­i­nent, but the re­al­ity is: as Aus­tralia’s hu­man pop­u­la­tion ex­pands and more tourists from here or abroad travel to croc coun­try, fa­tal­i­ties are bound to in­crease. Add the ever-in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tion of crocs and it’s a recipe for in­evitable dis­as­ter.

This in­ci­dent fol­lows an at­tack back in April this year of a North­ern Ter­ri­to­rian who was taken from the back of his boat.

Last year when the NT govern­ment said it was edg­ing closer to al­low­ing tro­phy hunt­ing of crocs there was public out­cry. I’m bug­gered if I can see why.

The NT govern­ment and some fed­eral coali­tion mem­bers have wanted to see the ban on tro­phy hunt­ing lifted so that Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties can be given the choice to use 20 of the al­ready avail­able 600 culling per­mits for recre­ational hunt­ing of big crocs.

By all ac­counts, tourists and hunters can join sa­faris in the NT that catch and kill croc­o­diles, but they can­not kill the an­i­mals them­selves. I don’t see much dif­fer­ence, as the croc ends up dead any­way. If a hunter is al­lowed to hunt and take a tro­phy, a prob­lem an­i­mal is ex­ter­mi­nated and the tour op­er­a­tor, hunt­ing guide and Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity make some money. It’s a win-win sit­u­a­tion.

Indige­nous Af­fairs Min­is­ter Nigel Scul­lion was re­ported as say­ing at the time that “there’s no dif­fer­ence [be­tween] croc­o­diles and flat­head ex­cept for size and teeth”, and I agree with that.

The NT makes a lot of money and there’s a lot of em­ploy­ment in the tourist fish­ing in­dus­try. The croc-hunt­ing scene could be just as suc­cess­ful and, while much smaller in num­bers, could gen­er­ate much-needed in­come and cre­ate em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in re­mote Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties.

I can al­ready hear peo­ple go­ing on about how bar­baric tro­phy hunt­ing is. I’m sure the RSPCA and the Greens would be against it, but most of us eat meat, wear leather shoes and sit on leather seats – some of us even eat croc­o­dile (tastes like chicken, I hear). So if some­one wants to kill a croc and earn a buck, let’s go for it.

Here in WA (I’m sit­ting on Ca­ble Beach at Broome as I write this) a croc was spot­ted just off the pop­u­lar swim­ming beach. The beach was closed to swim­mers and a search found the croc swim­ming north. Then, just last week in Wyn­d­ham, a croc nearly four me­tres in length, which had a ten­dency to plop onto a small boat’s stern and scare the crap out of the folk in­side the tin­nie, was cap­tured and brought down to the Broome croc farm. Of course, only a lim­ited amount of crocs can be trans­planted like that – shift­ing them around in the wild has done lit­tle to min­imise hu­man-croc in­ter­ac­tion.

In Queens­land, where the last croc­o­dile at­tack oc­curred, the govern­ment is still sit­ting on its hands, not want­ing (or un­able) to do any­thing about the con­tin­ual prob­lem of crocs. At the same time, the big­gest shark cull in the world (in some peo­ple’s es­ti­mates) con­tin­ues in Queens­land off the most pop­u­lar beaches. Bit of a dou­ble standard, in my eyes.

Any­way, an old croc shooter in the NT reck­ons he tells ev­ery­one th­ese days the only safe place to swim is in the shower.

Good ad­vice that, given the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in the NT, WA and Qld.

More Foot­loose at: www.guide­books.com.au/foot­loose.htm

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