Attacks spur calls for croc shooting

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 August, 2005, 12:00am

Giant reptiles kill humans, livestock but hunting illegal

A fatal attack on a fisherman in Queensland has intensified public debate on whether to legalise crocodile hunting in Australia.

The 60-year-old man was killed on Tuesday when his boat capsized on the Normanby River on Queensland's remote Cape York Peninsula while he and his wife were trying to fend off the crocodile as it moved in to attack them.

It is the latest in a series of attacks by the giant reptiles, which have reached almost plague proportions in some parts of northern Australia.

Last October a boy was snatched from a tent by a 4.2-metre crocodile as his family camped near the head of the Normanby River. Only the valiant efforts of another camper, Alicia Sorohon, who jumped on the reptile's head, saved the child.

No one knows the exact number of saltwater crocodiles, or 'salties', inhabiting Australia's far north, but since they became a protected species in the early 1970s after being hunted almost to extinction, the population has soared. Estimates vary from 50,000 to more that 100,000.

About 20 people have been killed by the man-eating saltie since l971 and many more injured.

Farmers also suffer, with significant numbers of livestock being lost in crocodile attacks.

The increasing threat to both animals and people has sparked calls to allow the hunting of crocodiles. And the federal government is showing signs of sympathy towards the demands.

Warren Entsch, parliamentary secretary to Australia's minister of industry, tourism and resources, agrees limited shooting of problem crocodiles should be allowed.

'Regulated trophy hunting would help control numbers while introducing new, lucrative and sustainable tourism opportunities.'

Big-game hunting of crocodiles would almost certainly attract thousands of tourists dollars, with some shooters reportedly prepared to pay up to A$50,000 ($299,000) a day for the privilege.

But conservationists argue there is already provision to shoot 'problem crocs' and point out that there is also a form of culling, through the removal of eggs by wildlife rangers in nesting areas.