Is culling really the answer to stopping croc attacks?

You would have heard about the latest crocodile attack in far north Queensland — a woman from New South Wales is missing presumed dead and her friend is recovering in hospital from injuries.

The search for 46-year-old Cindy Waldron continued on Tuesday, May 31 after authorities scoured the Thornton Beach area in the Daintree National Park following the attack on Sunday, May 29.

While it prompted a reminder for locals and tourists alike to be more vigilant in and around known crocodile habitats, Bob Katter has reignited calls for a crocodile cull in far north Queensland saying crocodile numbers are “out of control”.

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His comments were in response to fellow MP Warren Entsch who blamed “human stupidity” for the attack. However, Katter — who has been a north Queensland resident for 70-odd years — says that where there is water there will be people, either near it or on it and they shouldn’t be prevented for enjoying their leisure activities out of fear of being eaten.

The Waldron case eerily echoes that of Beryl Wruck in 1985, who was taken by a 5m crocodile after fatefully deciding to take a dip in the shallows of Barrett Creek late at night and after she had been drinking with friends.

Crocodile attacks in far north Queensland are not one-offs. The attack on Waldron was the second crocodile attack in May, following the drowning of 72-year-old Noel Ramage. In April, Peter Rowsell was lucky to escape after he and his family were attacked by a crocodile as they camped.

There have been several fatal attacks in north Queensland since Wruck.

In 2009 a five-year-old boy was snapped up by a 4.3m croc from the swamp behind his home while trying to save his puppy from a croc known as ‘Goldie’; 62-year-old Arthur Booker is believed to have been taken by a croc while checking crab pots near the Endeavour River in 2008; Townsville man Barry Jefferies was pulled from his canoe by a 4m croc as he paddled on the Normanby River in 2005; in 1993 Casey Bond was taken by a crocodile in front of his wife and children near the Jardine River ferry crossing, and in a cruel twist of fate it was in a similar location that Bond’s father-in-law was also nabbed by a croc in 1980; and in 1986 Katie McQuarrie was last seen in the jaws of a 5.5m crocodile after she left her broken down dinghy.

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According to the Department of Environment and Heritage CrocWatch between January and May 2016 there have been:

  • 2 current crocodiles of concern
  • 52 resolved crocodiles of concern responses
  • 4 crocodiles targeted for removal
  • 16 confirmed crocodile sightings
  • 120 unconfirmed crocodile reports.

Those are noteworthy figures, and you could be forgiven for thinking there has been a surge in crocodile attacks since widespread culling was outlawed in 1971.

Katter says it’s time to start controlling the numbers of crocodiles.

“There is no balance now. All of the crocodile predators have been removed so the number have exploded. A crocodile mother, she has 50 to 80 eggs she lays every year or so,” the Federal member for Kennedy told the ABC.

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His calls have the support of Queensland’s Cook MP Billy Gordon, who looked into crocodile movements before entering parliament and believes it’s time to review a “controlled crocodile cull”.

“We obviously need to make sure the signage and awareness campaign is working. But there also needs to be a look at the behaviour of crocs and particularly how they are mapping out their territory,” Gordon told The Australian.

Federal environment minister Greg Hunt also supports Katter’s position, saying “Human safety has to be paramount and so we give authority to Queensland to do that.”

One of the world’s leading authorities on crocodiles, professor Graham Webb rejected Katters claim that croc numbers were out of control and told ABC radio crocs would have to be culled by 95 per cent to make it safer for people to go into the water.

“To make it safe to go back in the water, you’d really have to reduce the population back to where it was pre-protection levels,” Webb says.

Do you think there is any merit in culling crocodile numbers to protect the human population? What are your thoughts on this issue?