Croc puts urban areas at risk

Local crocodile expert explains, there is no reason, from a conservation perspective, to not remove crocodiles from urban areas.

In the early days of COVID, a young Blackwater man tragically died.

When test results showed a positive coronavirus result, Blackwater was placed into lockdown costing small business millions.

Later, the test proved to be a false positive, and all that impact on Blackwater was for naught.

Compare that over reaction to the laid back approach we have to crocodiles.

Back in March, members of the local Rockhampton Ski Club spotted a crocodile of more than 2 metres in the Pink Lily area just near Rockhampton.

This man eating beast was close to where people boat, ski and where our kids row.

Under cautious State Government rules, however, nothing is done about a crocodile that could risk human life until a large crocodile is spotted by a State Government park ranger.

Eyewitness reports were not good enough for anyone to take action.

Unfortunately this risk did not turn out to be a false positive.

As was reported in *CQ Today* last weekend, on 29 May, park rangers finally cited the croc.

A trap has now been set so that it can be removed.

Since then other crocodiles have been spotted too, at least one being above the 2 metre limit.

But over these few months of delay, Rockhampton residents have been at risk.

Around 200 school students every week go rowing in the Fitzroy River.

Under the State Government’s crocodile management plan, the Rockhampton region is only designated as “zone C”.

This means that only crocodiles larger than 2 metres are removed, and only when they are first sited by Departmental officials.

Other areas of Queensland, including parts of Townsville and Cairns, are designated as “zone A” or “zone B”.

In these areas, which are in “close proximity to large urban populations”, all crocodiles are targeted for removal regardless of their size or behaviour.

Why does the State Government choose to protect the people of Cairns and Townsville but not those of Rockhampton? Areas around Mackay and Gladstone also lack the high level of protection.

Perhaps in the past these regulations were because of the larger crocodile populations in Far North Queensland.

However, crocodiles have been moving south for some time, and population numbers of crocodiles are booming.

As one local crocodile expert told me this week, there is just no reason, from a conservation perspective, to not remove crocodiles from urban areas.

There is no chance of crocodiles being an endangered species anytime soon.

From near extinction in the mid-1970s, there are now 20,000 to 30,000 crocodiles in Queensland.

Given the increased population, we need more regular surveys done by skilled personnel.

Our crocodile protection efforts should not rely only on locals whose reports are not actioned in any case.

In 2021, the State Government did review its crocodile management plans.

Curiously the panel was made up almost exclusively of academics based in Brisbane universities.

The only person from where crocodiles actually live was a traditional owner from Cape York.

Perhaps because of this Brisbane focus, State Government reports curiously seek to minimise the fatalities that occur from crocodiles.

One report almost heartlessly dismisses the loss of life by saying “Each fatality is a tragedy and makes balancing the responsibilities of conservation and public safety more challenging.”

We now know from the COVID experience that Brisbane people kind of like their lives.

They were happy to impose enormous costs on the community to avoid even a little bit of risk from coronavirus.

Why do they expect us then to take more risk from crocodiles than we do from a virus? It is about time that our crocodile management plans are written by us, not Brisbane.