In the northeast of the country, in the state of Queensland, the government wants to slaughter the biggest crocodiles to limit the risk of attacks.
Kill the biggest crocodiles to limit deadly attacks. This method is one of 22 components of the new Saltwater Crocodile Management Plan for Queensland (northeast Australia), released in July 2022. But this measure “ selective and targeted elimination ” specimens exceeding two meters forty, provokes strong reactions. A petition to castigate this method, launched last August, had already reached more than 12,000 signatures on Tuesday, September 6.
The culling measure for very large specimens is only relevant along the east coast of Queensland. To justify it, the Australian government highlights the fact that human activity has increased sharply in this area while the number of crocodiles has remained stable since 1970 (between 20,000 and 30,000 according to the Australian statistics office), the year of the end of animal hunting. However, the proliferation of human activity in the region increases the risk of contact between the two populations.
But the signatories of the petition, they believe that the reduction in the number of crocodiles has no influence on the risk of attacks. Worse, they argue, this method could be counterproductive: culling the most dangerous specimens could instil a sense of security in local residents, leading to reckless behavior. “It only takes one crocodile for an attack to occur“, they write in the petition.
In addition, while specimens over eight feet are certainly the most dangerous, attacks by smaller crocodiles can lead to drowning or fatal injuries, they add.
Between 1985 and 2017, 17 non-fatal attacks and eight fatal attacks by saltwater crocodiles took place in the wild, according to the Queensland government.
Shake up an entire ecosystem
The authors of the petition also note that the slaughter of the largest specimens amounts to systematically killing the dominant males to which the other crocodiles submit. From then on, a war of succession could take place between the young males, pushing an exacerbation of aggressive behavior, in particular towards the human population, continue the detractors of this method.
An absence of dominant males that should last, can we read on Radio France Internationale : “Less than 1% of the eggs will eventually become adults of reproductive age, so there is naturally a huge skimming“.
Killing saltwater crocodiles over eight feet would reduce an already rare and protected population. “The measure is a disguised eradication that could jeopardize the survival of this species”, explains to the media Gentside Craig Franklin, professor of biology at the University of Queensland, in charge of a laboratory studying the behavioral responses of reptiles to environmental changes.
While keen to cull larger specimens, saltwater crocodiles remain classified as a ‘vulnerable species’ by the state of Queensland. A paradox as the super-predators (species located at the top of the food chain) are important in the tourism industry of the State.