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Alex's Column 21 July 2023

I thought last week’s NT News article – “To cull or not to cull our beloved

Territory icon?” – was a balanced and comprehensive coverage.

It followed the attack by a 2.5m crocodile on a tourist in Wangi Falls, and

led to the Chief Minister’s call for a croc-culling debate.

So, in that regard, here’s my two bobs’ worth.

Firstly, can we please ease up on the hype about crocodiles and manage

these incredibly-important members of our fragile Top End animal ecology

in the responsible manner that we should?

After all, we are talking about one of the most amazing creatures on the

planet – an animal that has been around since the dinosaurs.

Do people realise that a 5 metre-plus crocodile is close to a 100 years old?

Sure it’s a man eater; it’ll eat anything it can get its jaws around quicker

than I can land a barramundi.

But it doesn’t rate as a man killer compared to drunks killing people on the

roads.

It doesn’t rate as a man killer compared to ultra-light planes killing people

in the air.

It doesn’t rate as a man killer compared to people drowning in swimming

holes.

It doesn’t even rate as a man killer compared to people who choke on a

piece of food.

Yet here we are, the biggest killers of all – humans – considering

widespread culling of a magnificent big old animal that survives by

predating on other animals in the water.

In Africa, lions kill and eat dozens of humans every year, but do you reckon

anyone is calling for their culling… no way.

In India, tigers kill and eat dozens of humans every year, but where’s the

call to get rid of these priceless mammals?

In North America, three to six people are killed every year by brown and

black bears, but culling was howled down 50 years ago.

Give me a break… these are bloody reptiles we’re talking about; they’ve got

the brain of a walnut. Surely we can outsmart them without having to wipe

out populations.


In Uganda, along the Nile River, more than 150 villagers are taken by crocs

every year.

Rangers there don’t even shoot the culprits: they catch and relocate them

to where they have no access to nearby villages.

Any talk about removing the big ones is an insult to our ability to manage

wildlife… these are the prime breeding, ecologically-successful specimens,

and they’re all really old.

Let’s not go down the path of knee-jerk reactions.

Crocodiles are dumb; humans are supposed to be smart.

These incredible creatures, particularly the big old ones, are viewed in awe

by tourists.

Most anglers also love to see them and love to show them off to

interstaters.

This is not a hard one to get right… just ignore the hype and the vested

interests.

We’re told we should be allowed to shoot the big old crocs – those 80-year-

old, still-surviving saurians – because they knock off the odd bovine.

Much as I am supportive of our cattle industry, it’s a fact that the

widespread clearing of native flora for cattle grazing, the planting of exotic

grasses for feed, and the blocking of natural waterways to create ponded

pastures have had a devastating impact on the natural food chain.

Large-scale loss of native animal and bird habitat, siltation into our rivers

and monumental fish kills can all be blamed on the cattle industry, and the

loss of the odd cow to a crocodile hardly compensates.

No one would argue that an identified man eater should be shot or trapped

and relocated if it can be found.

But let’s focus on educational management, and on maximising the ongoing

monumental tourism appeal of our native big crocodiles in the wild.



This monster Daly River crocodile is close to 100 years old, a prime

example of an ecologically-successful specimen, one with huge

tourism appeal.



Dusty Christophers, 8, and his brother Cruize, 9, with a terrific tricky

snapper caught during last weekend’s calm spell.



Ayla Christophers, 12, with her tricky snapper caught wide of

Dundee.



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