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Posted by Wes von Papinešu on December 08, 2000 at 20:42:09:
SUNDAY TIMES (Johannesburg, S Africa) 19 November 00 Reptile law's a load of old croc: Aussie townsfolk demand protection (Mark Chipperfield)
Sydney: The residents of a small Queensland town are demanding the right to shoot marauding crocodiles that are invading their farms, beaches and golf courses and even walking up the main street.
People living in the remote coastal settlement of Cooktown say the saltwater crocodiles - protected as an endangered species - pose a serious threat to their lives. They claim that a 40-year-old ban on hunting the creatures has made their numbers soar in tropical Australia.
John King, the English-born editor of the Cooktown News, says the latest sighting of a crocodile about 5m long at the fishing wharf illustrates how brazen the creatures are becoming - the wharf is on the town's main street. Other crocs have been seen wandering across the local golf course.
King said: "We've already lost several dogs over the last few months and it's only a matter of time before we lose a man or woman - and the crocs pose a real danger to children up here. At the moment the Parks and Wildlife Service is spending A55 000 (about R220 000) per animal to relocate crocs, but all they do is swim back here."
Under Queensland's tough antipoaching legislation, anyone caught killing a wild crocodile can be fined up to A225 000 (about R900 000) or face two years in jail.
The mayor of Cook Shire, Graham Elms, says "big salties" are now attacking stock on nearby cattle stations.
Further south in Cairns, authorities have been forced to close popular tourist beaches three times this year after crocodiles threatened bathers. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service is strongly resisting pressure to allow limited culling of wild crocodiles, saying people are exaggerating the problem.
Clive Cook, the service's regional manager in Cairns, says humans must learn to coexist with the reptiles.
He says: "It's simply not practical to say we can remove the risk by 100% to humans on our beaches and waterways. It's important to understand the dangers and be careful not to attract crocodiles by leaving fish scraps near boat ramps or camping too close to crocodile territory."
This strategy does not satisfy "Crocodile Mick" Pittman, a former crocodile hunter who now sells leather handbags to visiting tourists. Pittman, 42, advocates a return to hunting as a natural control method.
He said: "I've offered my services to any of the councils free of charge. But no one will take me on. All I want is the animals."
Pittman also disputes the government's estimates of crocodile numbers in Queensland, saying there are at least 30 000 animals in the Cape York region.
An additional problem for those trying to manage the threat is the sheer longevity of saltwater crocodiles. The world's biggest croc, Oscar, which is about 6m long and lives in the Cooktown area, is more than 90 years old - and is still going strong.