Monday, October 5, 2009

Jail house croc

Police at Gunbalanya in the Northern Territory captured a 2 metre crocodile that was reported loitering near the township by concerned locals. The police captured and bound up the croc and kept her in the jail cell for 3 days. The policeman was quoted;
"I wanted to jump on it Steve Irwin style," he said. "But (the rangers) wouldn't let me."
Perhaps they didn't want him to use unnecessary force.

A few months earlier Police at the same community shot dead a crocodile that was also found walking overland. On this occasion they stated that the crocodile had become aggressive and was attacking a fence. A fence which apparently was the barricade between the crocodile and the safety of the waterhole on the other side.

Crocodiles attack idiots

With some of the crocodile attack stories that occur you would wonder whether the victim was attempting to make a claim for the Darwin awards.

A few days ago a man was attacked by a crocodile after swimming at Bucket Billabong within Kakadu National Park in Australia's Northern Territory. It is a location that is well known and signposted as being crocodile habitat and people are warned not to swim. The victim received deep puncture wounds to his arm and was treated at a nearby clinic in Jabiru.

Also within the last week, an American tourist was attacked by a crocodile near the Mexican tourist resort of Cancun. The victim approached the waters edge to take a leak when he was attacked by the crocodile. He received multiple bites wounds and a head injury but survived to tell the story, sheepishly. The area also reportedly has plenty of crocodile warning signs in place.

This goes to show that although crocodile warning signs are important for crocodile safety and most people take them seriously, there are always a few who think they know better.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Another croc news day

Another day here in Darwin and we still have plenty to talk about regarding crocodiles.

During the busy Easter long weekend the inebriated fellow on the right here decided to dance on top of a croc trap in Darwin Harbour and wave to passerbys, who of course took this picture of him that was also put on the cover of todays paper.

And in other news there seems to be a growing number of people speaking up in anticipation of the Wednesday release of a draft crocodile management plan, and what it might entail.

Yesterday the Minister for Primary Industry Kon Vatskalis says he is pushing for crocodile safari's in the Top End. Crocodile safari hunting has always been a very political issue here in Australia.

Today Sally Isberg from the Darwin Crocodile Farm spoke out in concern for how the new management plan would handle the allocation of wild eggs and how that would affect the crocodile farming industry.

And also today Gerry Wood the independent member for Nelson spoke out against the proposed 5o kilometre 'croc free zone', saying it was impossible to maintain an area completely free of crocodiles and that the government would leave itself open to a lawsuit if somebody was to be attacked with the area.

Coral Bay crocodile

On Tuesday a large saltwater crocodile was spotted near Coral Bay in Western Australia. This was the first time in 10 years they had found a crocodile this far south on the west coast. The problem was they had lost sight of it again and the Easter long weekend was quickly approaching.

The stretch of coastline is a popular destination for recreational campers for boating, fishing and swimming. Not knowing where the crocodile would next turn up was creating a political nightmare for the Department of Conservation and Environment who had to find the croc and attempt to get the message out to the local community and visiting tourists on the potential risk.

By Saturday they had found the crocodile again near Gnaraloo Bay 30 kilometres south of Coral Bay. With a spotter plane to assist the search they attempted to track it, planning to capture it alive if possible. However keeping a eye on its movements was proving difficult as it kept diving out of sight. Later on it was spotted again moving north and authorities deemed it a better option to shoot the animal instead to end the matter.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Croc free zone

The latest we have on the ongoing croc saga here in the Top End is a leaked plan from the government to create a croc free zone within a 50 kilometre radius of Darwin. From the little bit we know about this from the NT News story on Thursday it appears that within this area all crocodiles will be trapped or shot on sight, with trapped animals to go to croc farms to utilise the meat and skins.

Is this a case of a little sensationalism or goverment spin at a time where the climate on croc issues is at a very high level?

We have always had a no-tolerance zone within the urban and rural areas including Darwin Harbour. Any crocodiles within these areas are trapped and removed for public safety. This new plan extends the area out towards the Adelaide river including floodplains leading up to it.

This system has a very high density of resident saltwater crocodiles that are highly mobile and have seasonal variations in their territory range.
Not only will the government have to spend a very large amount of time catching hundreds of crocodiles that have home territories overlapping this area and that also move, these plans will also disrupt the population dynamics on the Adelaide River that is a major source of crocodile-based tourism and egg harvesting for traditional owners.

This would appear to be a logistical nightmare to ensure these regions are croc free considering at present they are already having a hard time keeping the harbour and Howard River catchment croc free. In knowing that you can never catch every crocodile this policy would appear to mislead people into thinking it's safe to swim again in these rural areas. A crocodile may move into an area overnight from an area 20 to 30 km's away, just after a monitoring spotlight survey declares it croc free!

The strongest thing that is needed now is a much larger public education campaign to remind people of the dangers of swimming in waterways around the Top End and to educate people on how crocodiles behave and interact with the environment that we share with them. The Government used to promote a "Living with Crocodiles" campaign in the 80's when croc numbers increased, but these days we seem reliant on the NT News journalism as the driving force behind keeping crocodiles in people's minds. The positive step from the new croc policy is a greater focus on education.

Community debate on whether culling is the solution or a stronger focus on education and safety seems to be dividing parts of the community and it has been in the papers and airwaves every day for the past few weeks. A stronger more dramatic approach from the government may be the only way forward for them to keep the community sated. The government's new crocodile management plan will be released on Wednesday and we should expect a lot of debate on this to continue over the coming days.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Daly River croc attack

There has been another fatal crocodile attack within weeks of the young girl being taken while swimming at creek in Darwin's rural area. This time 20 year old Keith Parry disappeared while attempting to swim across the Daly River to get some alcohol to drink from the community on the other side. He left his campsite and unfortunately his relatives looked on in horror as he went under the water just after they spotted a 4 metre black crocodile, known to hang around the area, approaching him on the surface.

Police and rangers have a 2km stretch of the river closed off and have apparently shot a large 4.3 metre crocodile within this area that has believed to have killed Keith Parry. His remains have also been found 80 metres down from where the attack happened.

Easter weekend in the Territory is always the busiest for recreational fishing and camping, and just downstream from the attack we have seen photos of people wading in the shallows and drinking lots of beer. They had refused to leave the water when asked by police and rangers as they didn't believe they were in any danger.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Croc Bait

In today's local paper, we have some photos of people pushing the boundaries of what's a safe distance when in crocodile habitat, and includes a shot of a young girl sitting in the fast flowing water above the barrage at Shady Camp fishing. Another photo shows a guy wading thru the water up to his neck after a fishing lure.

Situations like this happen a lot in north Australia and I've seen situations like this myself, where maybe people get a bit too much sun and sometimes a bit to much too drink and will become a little blase about the risk of a crocodile attack. It actually goes to show that if crocodiles were really out to eat people all the time then they'd have plenty of opportunities.

Shady Camp is an interesting place, its a great place to catch a barramundi (popular fish up here) and it also has the highest concentration of wild saltwater crocodiles in the world. Crocodiles are also there for the fish, but they generally don't like people and tend to stay away as they associate us with getting a beer can thrown at them or maybe a fishing lure caught in their mouth.

Crocodiles will occasionally make the most of opportunities that present themselves, and a lot of the fatal crocodile attacks that have occured are directly because of people putting themselves in a dangerous situation. Most fatal attacks have occured when people were swimming in known crocodile habitat, and a high percentage of victims had consumed alcohol that could have impaired their judgement.

This situation above with people swimming at Shady Camp is very similar to the situation in 1987 at Cahill's Crossing in Kakadu National Park. On that occasion a fisherman Kerry McLoughlin pushed the boundaries of croc safety by swimming across the river for a lure and ended up being decapitated by a 5 metre croc in front of a lot of other fisherman, including his 17 year old son.

Below I've posted a video of saltwater crocodiles at the same barrage seen in the photo above. This is from Life in Cold Blood with David Attenborough, and the spectacular footage was filmed by Mark Lamble and assisted by us at Big Gecko. The irony in filming this crocodile sequence was we had to contend with lots of drunk fisherman doing silly things around crocodiles.