Friday, 21 September 2012

Crocs, dogs and sharks

The Cairns Post has been on a bit of an anti-croc rant recently after a Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management survey found that the Barron River's population was fairly sparse. A local MP, apparently deciding that DERM weren't to be trusted, came out in support of a cull, and the letters page lit up. I've put a couple of highlights at the end of this post beneath the fold.

The push against the crocs received a boost today with news that a fisherman had allowed his dog to wander into a mangrove lined creek at Kewarra Beach well known for crocs while he was fishing, and the ending was somewhat predictable. Crocodiles love dogs, and I've heard similar stories and worse before. It's sad when someone loses a loved pet, but I do think the owner was somewhat responsible. You really shouldn't let dogs or children play in the creeks and rivers up here. There's still some risk at the beaches, though I suspect those encounters are surprised and defensive bites rather than hunting.

We've seen more calls for a cull, with some in favour of making the crocs extinct except in farms. One fellow has commented on the Cairns Post website's comments that any croc within 100km of human habitation should be culled, and I find myself wondering if that would leave a single croc untouched. With all the settlements dotted along the coast I don't know how many areas aren't within 100km of some town.

Reading through the comments on the website, I did find myself wondering about something a little odd. I have a strange feeling that a fatal croc attack in Cairns would have a greater impact on our tourism industry than a fatal shark attack. Sharks seem to have lost a bit of their aura. A crocodile seems more malevolent and less graceful. It's easier to see the beauty in a shark. Am I a bit strange in thinking that death by shark is more elegant death than death by croc?

It's a tough subject, trying to figure out how much risk with which we are prepared to live. If we kill all the crocodiles, snakes, spiders, jellyfish, sharks, and cone shells, we will be a tiny bit safer. We'll just have to deal with the greater danger we face - each other.

I thought this exchange on the Cairns Post's letter page a little amusing:

Bruce Belcher, who runs croc-spotting tours on the Daintree River, wrote in:
I wrote a letter in response to one by Member for Barron River Michael Trout, regarding crocodiles.

It caused a stir but sometimes accuracy and honesty does.

Just this afternoon a friend told me that my name was mentioned on a talkback radio program and the guts of the story was that Mr Trout should know what he was writing about because, after all, he has been here for 30 years and that tour operators, who have not been here for very long, don't know what they are saying, or something like that.

I'd like the caller to know that I've lived in the Cairns, Port Douglas and Daintree regions for 40 years.

I have been a tour guide and eventually a tour operator for the past 25 years on the Daintree River.

As I work with crocs for eight hours a day I think I am more qualified and have more of an understanding than a mere pen pusher.
Mike Squire, the North Queensland Party's unsuccessful candidate for Barron River at the last election, was incensed at the idea that a guy who spends his life searching for crocodiles may be a better source of information than the MP with whom Mr Squire agreed:
I find the comments by the Bruce Belchers of this world, (8-9-12), insolent and quite frankly arrogant.

Michael Trout has years of both business and residential experience in the area and from my experience is a level-headed individual who, unlike Mr Belcher, is the elected representative for Queensland in the seat of Barron River.

Perhaps I may offer Mr Belcher a selection of crocs to restock his Daintree experience, for a price.

And it would be far more beneficial to the community at large is Mr Belcher, and any other so-called experts, were to put up their hand and offer our elected representatives the opportunity to canvas their view on such matters.

An elected representative can hardly be an expert in all fields but an experienced and educated person can gather information and form a view.

Being an elected representative involves far more than pushing pens Mr Belcher.
Hmmm. Don't trust the DERM survey or the anecdotal evidence from someone who makes his living off crocodiles, go with the MP and former businessman's anecdotal evidence instead?

Bruce Belcher responded:
Mr Mike Squire (12-9-12), I can accept your harsh criticism of my character. As I said in my last letter, the truth often hurts.

You said that "an elected representative can hardly be an expert in all fields but an experienced and educated person can gather information and form a view".

I would expect nothing less. So, the correct procedure would be for a rep to consult the Department of Environment and Resource Management before he can form a view.

DERM's information is a conclusion of dedicated work by experts.

Was their advice overlooked or ignored? By that I mean that DERM's conclusion is the population of crocs is of a low density.

The letter I read was quoting rumours from the public, which is generally unreliable.

As the croc population is low then why do we need a zero tolerance in an urban environment?

I can understand that a rep needs to satisfy his constituents, but at the expense of the animals' welfare.

Environmentally, we need to live together.

An expert once said that if you have a croc living in the waterways then that habitat is healthy.

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