Croc-hunting plan to help Aborigines

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 November, 2003, 12:00am

Aspiring Crocodile Dundee types may soon have the chance to live out their fantasies in Australia's rugged Northern Territory.

Nearly 30 years after protection as an endangered species, saltwater crocodiles lurking in swamps and rivers could once again find themselves in hunters' cross-hairs.

In a report published Tuesday, government officials said that poor Aboriginal communities could earn thousands of dollars by allowing crocodile hunting on their land.

For big-game hunters, the prospect of bagging a monster crocodile and taking home its skin is likely to prove irresistible.

Saltwater crocs can grow to more than six metres and weigh up to a tonne. They were nearly extinct before hunting was banned in the early 1970s.

Their numbers have staged a remarkable comeback in recent years, with an estimated 70,000 in the Northern Territory and thousands more in Western Australia and Queensland.

A draft plan by the Northern Territory's Parks and Wildlife Service would allow hunters to shoot up to 600 crocodiles - over four-metres long - a year.

According to the government, Aboriginal landowners would see 'major benefits' from the plan, which would augment their traditional pig and buffalo hunting.

'Trophy hunting of crocodiles will add greatly to their financial benefits because of the potential international clients they can attract,' the report said.

Vast areas of the Northern Territory and the Kimberley region of Western Australia are owned by Aboriginal tribes, with outsiders having to seek a permit to enter their land.

Under the proposal, Aborigines living in remote parts of the Northern Territory would be paid a daily rate for access to their land. They could also be employed as guides, showing tourists the best places to find large crocodiles.

The preferred hunting method is to venture out at night in a boat, using a spotlight to scan the surface of a river or estuary for the tell-tale glint of a crocodile's eyes.

The animal is then shot or, for those with nerves of steel, harpooned, before being dragged into the boat and skinned.