Sunday, November 16, 2008

Furore in Queensland

The recent and unfortunate death of Arthur Booker has opened a can of worms in Queensland over their crocodile management program. In case you're not living in Australia, or you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks, 62 year old Arthur Booker was taken by a crocodile on 30 September whilst checking crab pots on the Endeavour River near Cooktown.

This resulted in a lot of media stories covering the crocodile attack, usually with the most horrifying and impactful photos of crocodiles to accompany them.

Something like this...

The media focus certainly got people nervous about crocs and kept them in their minds.

Around this time a crocodile had begun to be regularly spotted near high profile tourist destination Magnetic Island. And then it was discovered that the crocodile was part of a research project tracking crocodiles.

"The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said yesterday that the 3.5m crocodile had been trapped near the Cape York community of Bamaga earlier this year and released more than 1000km south, in a creek near Townsville, as part of satellite tracking program Crocs in Space to see whether it would establish a new home range."

As you can imagine, a lot of people including tourists and local businesses weren't happy to find out his new home range now included Magnetic Island.

This created a storm with Queensland politicians looking for someone to blame and also trying to distance themselves from the issue. The next thing that occurred was a whistleblower reputed to be a wildlife ranger who wrote a letter to parliament. Among other things it said that relocated crocodiles that were part of the research project were believed to be responsible for the fatalities of Arthur Booker and Barry Jefferies in Lakefield National Park in 2005.

The truth is, this will probably have major repercussions for crocodile management in Queensland. The entire management programme has already been put up for review and a lot of questions will need to be asked to find out how it got to this stage. There are many opinions on the best approach for managing crocodiles and they are often very strong ones.

However regarding this entire issue we will be keeping our ears open with anticipation for future updates.

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