They have been described as perfect, so perfect they have not changed in the past 200 million years. The Saltwater Crocodile, Crocodylus Porosus, grows to lengths of over 5 meters. It’s enormous size and powerfully built body attained its reputation of being one of the most fearsome and efficient predators on earth.
The Northern Territory Government wants to introduce safaris, which allow trophy hunters to shoot 25 saltwater crocodiles a year. The privileged hunters will pay as much as $30,000 per crocodile.
The Government wants to adopt such a plan, that will aid the Government, and individuals, financially and possibly may help to regulate the rapidly escalating crocodile population.
There are those who think otherwise, individuals have labeled it as inhumane. The safari hunting will damage the Territory’s reputation for “icon crocs”, could threaten species numbers and be difficult to regulate the cull.
Saltwater crocodiles have become of the Territory’s biggest attractions; tourists come from around the world to see the famous jumping crocodiles on the Adelaide River or to learn about their habits and habitats at crocodile farms within the Territory.
The Saltwater Crocodile population has rapidly increased to approximately 70,000 since the protection of the species in 1971, when the numbers were below 30001. If safari hunting were to go ahead, the cull would only affect a very minute portion of the population. There should be sufficient numbers for the population to support itself negating any risk of extinction.
The increasing crocodile population is fast becoming a menace to society, especially in the more remote areas of Australia. “We live with these creatures daily. They are getting bigger and bolder affecting the way we live our lives.”2. Many of the rogue crocodiles inhabit the remote rivers and billabongs around the stations and communities. These communities should be able to benefit financially since they share their country.
If the safari hunting was to go ahead, the Government has assured the public that it will be carried out in the most humane way possible, a bullet to the head. Professional shooters will guide the Safaris. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) condemns the proposal stating “there is no justification for killing Australia’s icons of the outback.” They further state, “an amateur shooter who has paid thousands of dollars to bag a crocodile has little incentive to ensure the animals do not suffer in the process.” In response, Dr Grahame Webb, a world re-known zoologist who has studied these reptiles for over 30 years states there could be no more humane way for a crocodile to be culled. “In the wild they rip each others arms off…They are torn to pieces by each other”. Shooting is, perhaps, the most humane way of killing a crocodile.
This proposal has many benefits, both for society as a whole and for individuals. Currently 600 crocodiles3 are legally captured in waters surrounding Darwin every year; most of them are rouge crocodiles, which are a threat. The sale of the skin and meat fetches a gross of $600, however if the Government wins the debate, some crocodiles could be worth up to $30,000. “Last year an operator was offered half a million dollars to help hunt and kill one f these monsters”4. If 25 of these beasts were shot each year, it would be a boost for the economy. However, the Territory will benefit, because the traditional landowners will receive a percentage if the safari takes place on their land, providing extra money for the families.
This proposal will help regulate the rapidly rising crocodile population as it could remove breeding crocodiles. In the animal kingdom where size does matter, the larger crocodiles will always control more territory (usually at popular fishing spots) and will usually be the first to breed. By taking out a small number of crocodiles, the rate of reproduction should decrease and still keep the population at sustainable levels.
However some believe this proposal will ruin the Territory’s reputation for having “icon crocs”, if the largest crocodiles are being culled along with another 600 menace crocodiles, it will be difficult for tourists to see these dinosaurs in their natural habitat. Many tourists come to see our diverse species in their natural surroundings.
Regulation is perhaps the biggest argument against this proposal. Many believe that once the hunting ban is lifted on the crocodile we could see the numbers fall to the record lows of the 70’s over time. The crocodiles will also be more susceptible to poaching, as there is less risk of prosecution once ban has been lifted.
The Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission have developed a management program. The aim is to “enhance the current and long term conservation of wild crocodiles and their habitats through commercial ranching program and other sustainable measure.”5
The management program seeks to:
1. Maintain viable wild populations of crocodiles and conserve the wetland habitats upon which they depend;
2. Enhance public safety by maintaining an active public awareness campaign and by removing problem crocodiles;
3. Develop, monitor and regulate the sustainable utilization of crocodiles throughout the Northern Territory;
4. Allow for the expansion of the crocodiles industry commensurate with the capacity of the wild populations to sustain harvests.
NB: Source: A Management Program for Crocodylus Porosus and Crocodylus Johnstoni in the Northern Territory. (See attached)
The Parks and Wildlife Commission have given permits to those who legally trade crocodiles, whether alive or dead. For those who are caught harvesting/hunting crocodiles without permits, they face a maximum penalty of “$2000 and/or 6 months imprisonment, with additional fines of up to $100 per animal or part thereof.”6
I think the current management program works very efficiently, it has been implemented for the last 30 years and has been modified a number of times to sustain both salt and fresh water crocodile populations. The proposal to modify the current management program should be a success as I can only see clear benefits as a result.
In the future the numbers culled per year may need to either increase or decrease depending on variables such a population, habitat etc. However, the Government may need to employ more rangers or individuals who can monitor population numbers and be sure that there is no or very little poaching/hunting.
Evidence shows that the commercial and social benefits outweigh the negative implications that could occur if the proposal were to go ahead. It would help the Territory economically as it has the potential to create jobs and produce an unknown gross profit.
However, in order for this proposal to work the public must be educated and they must believe that this is best for the Territory.