FAT AL­BERT MISSING

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - SAM SMALL­BONE

Be­lieved shot and buried

WHERE is Fat Al­bert?

That’s the mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion at the back of ev­ery­one’s mind on the Dain­tree River.

For al­most six weeks now the king croc of the Dain­tree has been missing and many tourist op­er­a­tors on the river say it is un­likely that he has re­lo­cated or ’wan­dered off’.

So­lar Whis­per Dain­tree Crocodile tour guide David White has not seen Fat Al­bert lurk­ing around the river for al­most eight weeks now and said that his dis­ap­pear­ance is very sus­pi­cious.

“This is the breed­ing sea­son and he is one of the top male crocs in the area so it is un­usual for him to dis­ap­pear.

“There are a lot of ru­mours go­ing around that a farmer may have shot him but there is no proof at this stage, his dis­ap­pear­ance is still be­ing in­ves­ti­gated,” he said.

It is also very un­likely that the King has passed away nat­u­rally as he is re­ported to be a very healthy, mid­dle aged and ter­ri­to­rial crocodile that is of­ten spot­ted in the area by tours.

“He had owned a very large ter­ri­tory from the ferry all the way up to the Dain­tree Vil­lage which is al­most 10km of the river,” Mr White said.

“It is pos­si­ble for crocs to won­der off how­ever it is un­usual to see such a ter­ri­to­rial male crocodile dis­ap­pear dur­ing breed­ing sea­son.”

Manger of the Crocodile Ad­ven­ture Tours Bruce Belcher has been run­ning the tours for al­most 20 years and is con­vinced that Fat Al­bert is gone.

Mr Belcher said older male crocodile Scar­face has taken over his ter­ri­tory.

“We have been told through the grapevine that he was shot and dragged out of the river by a trac­tor how­ever there is still no proof. It is still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” he said.

Chris Dahlberg who drives the bird watch­ing boats in the Dain­tree River is 99 per cent con­fi­dent that he saw Fat Al­bert at 6.30am on Sun­day morn­ing.

“I saw him two days ago about 1km from the Dain­tree Vil­lage. It’s not that un­usual for male crocodiles to go walk­a­bout ev­ery now and then, I wouldn’t be sur­prised if we don’t see him again un­til next sum­mer,” he said.

“If crocodiles were cre­at­ing mas­sive prob­lems for farm­ers they would have shot them long be­fore crocodile tourism started,” he said.

A lo­cal guide from Moss­man says that it is a shame to hear that Fat Al­bert may have met with foul play as Scar­face has taken a lik­ing to most of his fe­males.

“It is un­like Fat Al­bert to leave his ter­ri­tory for such a long time and it is def­i­nitely a shame if some­one has re­moved him from the river,” he said.

“Fat Al­bert is a beau­ti­ful and dom­i­nat­ing crea­ture who peo­ple love to come and see.”

Fat Al­bert’s long leave of ab­sense is clearly con­cern­ing some lo­cals.

“It’s not right to shoot a croc, ob­vi­ously it would be up to the Na­tional Park to re­move a crocodile if it was a threat to the com­mu­nity but they are a big part of our tourism up here and Fat Al­bert is one of our biggest crocs,” David White said.

Dain­tree Spirit’s owner Gor­don Lamb said that it is a dis­grace to hear that Fat Al­bert may have been shot.

“I think it is a dis­grace if some­one has shot him, it is go­ing back to a third world coun­try sta­tus,” he said.

“The crocs were in the river long be­fore we were so I think that peo­ple need to learn how to live with them. If farm­ers are wor­ried about their cat­tle be­ing taken by crocs they should in­stall a fence,” he said.

Queens­land Parks and Wildlife Ser­vice rangers have in­ves­ti­gated his dis­ap­pear­ance.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion was un­able to find any ev­i­dence to sub­stan­ti­ate the claim.

The de­lib­er­ate killing of a crocodile is an of­fence the Na­ture Con­ser­va­tion Act and is pun­ished by a fine up to $22,500.

Any­one who has any in­for­ma­tion or ev­i­dence should con­tact Queens­land Parks and Wildlife Ser­vice on 1300 130 372.

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