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Expert warns a crocodile cull could lead to more attacks in the NT

July 12, 2023 6:20 pm in by

A Darwin crocodile expert says culling the apex predators would do more harm than good.

It comes after Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said she would contact the Commonwealth about a cull after a tourist was attacked by a 2.4 metre saltwater crocodile at Wangai Falls on Monday.

But Charles Darwin University researcher Brandon Sideleau said it’s a knee-jerk reaction.

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“It’s a very minor incident involving a small crocodile, not a crocodile that would be of the size to kill a human,” Mr Sideleau said.

“I’ve never seen a push this intense…like in 2014, several people were killed by crocodiles and even then the push for culling was nothing like what they are now.”

Mr Sideleau said culling is plagued with problems.

“I suspect they’ll be targeting larger crocodiles and when you do that you actually create a power vacuum…that brings in new large crocodiles.”

“And you may actually end up having more people getting attacked because they are lulled into a false sense of security.”

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“They think that – ‘ok well they’ve done croc culling, this area is safe’.”

Natasha Fyles said a cull should be considered as current numbers are estimated to be more than 100,000 up from 3,000 when a ban on hunting took effect in the 1970’s.

“I think it’s time for us to consider – ‘Do we need to go back to culling?’ Considering that significant increase in the crocodile population and the impact it’s having not only on tourism and visitors but also locals,” Ms Fyles said.

“When you have a bigger crocodile population there is more chance that they will interact with humans and I think we had a very thankful outcome…[on Monday] but it could be more tragic in the future.”

But Mr Sideleau claims numbers have stabilized, pointing to surveys that show populations are not increasing due to management and removal strategies.

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Amid fears that tourists may avoid Wangai Falls in the future, he believes that will not be the case.

“When crocodile attacks happen tourism seems to actually peak after the crocodile attack so it has the opposite effect than what people think it has.”

“Unfortunately Australia has a stereotype for dangerous animals so a lot of tourists are attracted to that and…so this won’t impact tourism at all.”

Culling crocodiles would however be detrimental to tourism and the NT economy according to Mr Sideleau.

“People go out and they want to see big crocodiles…if you start doing that, you’re going to affect the economy and you’re also going to give Australia and the Northern Territory a bad reputation for ecotourism.”

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With NT Parks and Wildlife unsure of exactly how the crocodile ended up in Wangai Falls, Mr Sideleau believes it may have already been in the waterhole, with biting a defensive response.

“I think it probably just evaded sighting during the surveys for opening in the wet season and I think it remained submerged for much of the time.”

“Something may have happened, somebody may have swam over it accidently and it kind of defensively bit and became aggressive.”

The crocodile expert believes if the NT Government were to change anything they should consider doing targeted removal of animals way upstream if anything at all.

“Nobody’s been killed in the Northern Territory for a very long time and I think that’s because of a very very effective management plan.”

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“I honestly think that every single crocodile attack that occurs in the Northern Territory can be prevented with croc wise behaviour and just some common sense.”

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