Crocodile management strategy revealed for Cairns
WILDLIFE rangers will undergo specialised training to provide a quick response to crocodile sightings throughout Far Northern waterways under new plans announced yesterday to protect people from the reptiles.
Queensland Environment Minister Andrew Powell announced the three-year pilot crocodile management plan at Palm Cove yesterday, which is aimed at keeping crocodiles out of heavily populated areas.
The new ranger recruits will be put through an intensive training program before they hit the region's beaches and creeks to remove crocs reported by members of the public.
The Government has ruled out culling crocodiles, despite a growing number of people including in an exclusive The Cairns Post survey calling for more drastic action to curb croc numbers.
Barron River MP Michael Trout, who has lobbied for a zero tolerance approach on crocodiles, said the plan would be the most serious action against the reptiles yet.
"Where there's a reported sighting of a crocodile now there will be action from rangers and we'll see a greater and quicker response than ever before," he said.
The three-tier plan follows a similar model in the Northern Territory and includes "exclusion zones" in which crocodiles would be trapped and relocated.
The State Government will also provide $20,000 for Cairns Regional Council to carry out a feasibility study into erecting barriers at Lake Placid and Freshwater Creek to keep crocs out.
Ben Woods, who was fishing at Deep Creek near Kewarra Beach when a large saltie snatched his border collie in September, welcomed the boost in ranger numbers.
"They have to remove them from residential areas where people go," he said.
Surf lifesaving groups will be given two inflatable rubber boats for patrols in a move to ease concerns that have resulted in a drop in nipper numbers in recent years.
Mr Powell said a new survey of croc numbers would begin in the new year, but anecdotal evidence showed crocodile numbers had risen dramatically over the past few years.
Surf Lifesaving regional manager Colin Sparkes, who has 35 years' experience patrolling Cairns' beaches, said he had noticed a significant rise in crocodile numbers.
"I can guarantee you numbers are increasing. This is a start... but I don't know if you could ever do enough," he said.
Federal MP Bob Katter, a longtime campaigner for the reintroduction of crocodile safari hunting, blasted the plan for not going far enough.
"There will be human beings taken by crocodiles somewhere in North Queensland in the next few years," he said.
Mr Powell defended the plan, but warned against swimmers developing a false sense of security as the program is rolled out.
"Despite this action I can never guarantee that any site is going to be free from crocodiles," he said.
"People still need to be croc wise in croc country and this definitely is croc country."
Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland policies and campaigns manager Des Boyland said crocodile populationswere still recovering from the shooting of crocs allowed during the '70s.
Mr Powell will continue meeting with councils in Hinchinbrook, Cassowary Coast and Townsville today.
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Take care: Warning signs tell tourists Danielle Becker and Sabina Scott of the possible threats in Far Northern waterways. Picture: STEWART McLEAN