Posted July 14, 2018 07:46:02
Preliminary results from the Queensland Government's estuarine crocodile population survey suggest there has not been an explosion in croc numbers in the state.
The Department of Environment and Science embarked on a three-year survey last year, the state's most comprehensive in more than a decade, following two fatal attacks and calls from the Katter's Australian Party for a crocodile cull.
The department's Northern Wildlife Operations Manager, Dr Matthew Brien, said while the raw data would not be released publicly at this stage, early results suggested the average density of crocodiles in Queensland was "comparably quite low".
"The preliminary data does not suggest an explosion," he said.
"When you look at a place like the Northern Territory where they've got an average of five to 10 crocodiles per kilometre, our preliminary data is showing that we have around less than one crocodile per kilometre on average.
"But there is variation throughout the state, and it's really important to get a better understanding of that, and we'll do that over the next year-and-a-half."
Wildlife officers used boats and helicopters to survey more than 2,000 kilometres of waterways from Gladstone to Cape York and the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Night and daytime surveys were also carried out in six waterways south of Rockhampton that are outside the normal crocodile habitat, but none were observed in those streams.
Crocodile management has become a hot-button issue in North Queensland, with Katter's Australian Party (KAP) leading the push for a cull following recent fatal attacks and cases of farmers killing crocodiles on their properties.
An elderly woman was taken by a crocodile near Port Douglas in October 2017, a spearfisherman was killed near Innisfail in March 2017, and a New Zealand woman was fatally attacked at Cape Tribulation in May 2016.
Last year, KAP Federal leader Bob Katter claimed a person was "torn to pieces by a crocodile" every three months in north Queensland.
The party's Queensland arm has since tabled a bill in State Parliament to set up a Queensland Crocodile Authority which could sanction culls and egg harvesting.
KAP North Queensland MP Shane Knuth said he was not convinced by the preliminary results of the Government's survey, and the party would push ahead with its bill.
"There is an infestation of crocs," he said.
"There needs to be reduction of croc numbers and we knew that report was going to be bodgie.
"The government needs to get out of their subterranean existence and venture out and really have a good look at what's going on.
"We've seen an increase from 177 sightings per year in 2010. Now we're at 680 [so] obviously this is telling us something."
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the survey was important to ensure policy decisions around crocodile management were based on scientific evidence.
"Less than 50 years ago, we saw crocodiles hunted to almost extinction in this state and across the country," she said.
"In that short period of time, through conservation efforts, we've seen numbers coming back to what would probably be the natural number.
"What we're seeing is good research, good science, the use of technology being combined to support the balance between the protection of species and the safety of the human population."
Dr Brien said wildlife officers had removed "record numbers of crocodiles" over the past few years, including 84 last year, and already culled them where necessary.
"We have various methods including shooting," he said.
"We do shoot crocodiles when it's required if we believe the risk to human safety is too great."
The crocodile monitoring program is expected to conclude late next year, with a detailed report prepared in 2020.