A huge 5.2 m crocodile has been shot dead in Queensland
AN “iconic” 5.2 m saltwater crocodile was discovered yesterday floating along the Fitzroy River in Queensland with a fatal gunshot wound to the head.
The incident has prompted concerns from wildlife experts who say that younger male crocodiles will now become more aggressive as they battle to become the new alpha.
“People need to clearly understand the death of this animal has changed the balance of the crocodile population in the Fitzroy and we can expect increased aggressive activity by younger male crocodiles,” Michael Joyce, the biodiversity operations director at the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, told ABC News.
“That’s because they will be competing to take the dominant position which is now vacant. I cannot stress strongly enough the need for all river users to be aware of the risks.”
An illegal act
Killing a saltwater crocodile is considered an offence under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and the severity of the penalty can significantly increase if the crocodile is considered “iconic”.
However, Claire Brennan an expert on crocodile hunting from James Cook University told Australian Geographic that while there are legal penalties in place for killing a protected species, the death of crocodiles in northern Queensland don’t tend to result in prosecutions.
Claire added that the motivation behind this particular offence can be boiled down to two factors.
“Because crocodiles threaten harm to people who live in the same area and locals want to feel safe, or because killing large, dangerous animals can be thrilling,” she said.
Interestingly, Michael Joyce told the ABC that the 5.2 m crocodile would be shy of people and would probably avoid contact with them, which may suggest that the crocodile was recreationally hunted.
Claire explained that studies in the Northern Territory indicate that numbers are now returning to what they were before the widespread commercial hunting of crocodiles that occurred between 1945 and the complete protection of crocodiles across northern Australia in 1974.
“Since crocodiles have been protected by law the population has gradually recovered and the killing of small numbers of crocodiles isn’t a danger to the population as a whole, but a return to the large scale killing experienced before the ban would be.”
The Queensland Police and environment authorities are conducting a joint investigation into the matter.
“What we are doing is asking anyone with any information or knowledge on the cause of death of this animal to contact Rockhampton CIB and Crime Stoppers,” Luke Peachey, the Acting Detective Inspector in the Capricornia Police District said.