SALTIE MAP­PING FARCE

Ev­ery­one knows about river crocs, ex­cept the au­di­tors

Townsville Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - JOHN AN­DER­SEN Re­gional Editor john. an­der­sen@ news. com. au

SALT WA­TER crocodiles have been spot­ted more than 200km from the North Queens­land coast de­spite the last State Gov­ern­ment au­dit find­ing only 258 es­tu­ar­ine crocs be­tween Mary­bor­ough and Cooktown.

The Bul­letin snapped three crocodiles in a 500m stretch of the Bowen River near Collinsville, 190km from the Bur­dekin River mouth.

Bur­dekin MP Dale Last said there was no ev­i­dence that of­fi­cers in­volved in the last crocodile pop­u­la­tion sur­vey un­der­taken in 2009- 10 ex­plored fresh­wa­ter rivers such as the Bur­dekin to de­ter­mine pop­u­la­tions.

Mr Last said the sur­vey was largely re­garded as a joke by peo­ple who ex­plored the area’s fresh­wa­ter rivers.

“These es­tu­ar­ine or salt­wa­ter crocodiles are just as at home in fresh­wa­ter,” he said.

“The State Gov­ern­ment has to get se­ri­ous and spend the time talk­ing to lo­cals who know these rivers – peo­ple like sta­tion own­ers and mus­ter­ing pilots who fly the rivers and creeks.”

It comes af­ter the Gov­ern­ment an­nounced another au­dit would be un­der­taken in a re­view of the crocodile man­age­ment plan.

But a spokes­woman for the Min­is­ter for En­vi­ron­ment and Her­itage Pro­tec­tion Steven Miles could not con­firm the scope of the new au­dit or when it would be­gin.

She said one of the depart­ment’s first steps would be to en­gage in­de­pen­dent ex­perts to au­dit the science used to gauge num­bers.

“The first phase will iden­tify gaps in the science and what is re­quired to fill these gaps,” she said.

“Once we have the science, we will re­view crocodile man­age­ment ar­range­ments in con­sul­ta­tion with the broader com­mu­nity.”

Mr Last said it was com­mon knowl­edge es­tu­ar­ine crocodiles could be found right up to where the Bowen River joined the Bro­ken River on the western fall of the Eun­gella Range, 225km up­stream from the Bur­dekin River mouth.

He said it was also well known there was a pop­u­la­tion of breed­ing crocodiles in the Bur­dekin Dam.

Bur­dekin River he­li­copter pi­lot Wayne Prichard said there was a large es­tu­ar­ine crocodile pop­u­la­tion in the Bur­dekin River be­tween the dam wall and the river mouth.

He said there was one spec­i­men mea­sur­ing seven

If there

is no wa­ter­fall or land bar­rier to block them, they will keep go­ing up­river

BUR­DEKIN MP DALE LAST

me­tres which could usu­ally be found where the Bowen and Bur­dekin rivers met.

In the Gov­ern­ment’s 2009- 10 sur­vey, crocodiles ranged from 0.3m to 3.8m.

It was in the area close to the Bur­dekin- Bowen River junction where Steve Ir­win caught his first es­tu­ar­ine crocodiles when build­ing his Aus­tralia Zoo near Bris­bane.

Dal­beg farm­ers Sean McShane and Michael Le­quer­ica spent a night in the early 1980s catch­ing a 4.5m crocodile with Ir­win near Mil­la­roo.

“He used to trap them in heavy nets us­ing dead pigs as bait,” Mr Le­quer­ica said.

Mr Last said the Cro­marty Wet­lands had a large, but un­known num­ber of crocodiles.

“You can’t do half- baked sur­veys like the last one. It will take a lot of time and ef­fort to prop­erly sur­vey the creeks and rivers,” he said.

“The crocs will go as far as the barramundi go. If there is no wa­ter­fall or land bar­rier to block them, they will keep go­ing up­river.”

Tony Menkens, the for­mer owner of Myuna Sta­tion on the Bowen River, said the crocs were na­tive to the river.

“The cows used to leave their calves be­hind when they went down for a drink. It was noth­ing to see 20 calves in a bunch high up on a bank while the cows were down drink­ing,” he said.

Pic­tures: FIONA HARD­ING

NO SE­CRET: Crocodiles have long been and still are ac­tive in the Bowen River.

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