There’s been a pretty lively debate around far north Queensland in recent times about crocodiles. Well, it’s been going for decades, but has been re-ignited in recent times by croc sightings in close proximity to our large population centres, and especially around popular tourist destinations.
The estuarine or saltwater crocodile is the largest living reptile and the most aggressive of all crocodiles. It loves brackish water, coastal environments and the lower stretches of rivers, so FNQ is the perfect place for the big salty. In the not too distant past, they were hunted and shot, leading to fears a species that has been with us since the time of the dinosaurs was on the brink of extinction. The law changed, crocodiles were afforded some environmental protection, and their numbers increased again.
Just how much they’ve increased is a hotly debated question. There’s a view among older folk here that when they were kids, you could swim safely in creeks and rivers that are now known crocodile habitats. Perhaps there’s a touch of nostalgia creeping in, maybe that was really the case. But many people believe there are a lot more crocodiles around these days and they want something done about it. When the new Queensland Government took office last year, it promised to address the issue, setting up a local advisory group to help manage crocodile populations and deal with so-called “problem” crocs.
Professor Craig Franklin is a member of that committee. He’s with the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland, where he’s extensively studied crocodiles and other reptiles. http://www.biology.uq.edu.au/staff/craig-franklin
Craig says crocodile numbers have not increased significantly, and if we are seeing more of them it’s probably because there are more of us, living closer to crocodile habitats than we used to when our towns and populations were smaller. Craig talks about how we should handle living alongside crocodiles, and whether culling or re-locating them would be effective.