Australia Zoo’s Terri Irwin has called on all Queensland MPs to rule out a crocodile cull, saying people need to better understand how to co-exist with the apex predators.
The debate on a cull was reignited in May when a New South Wales woman, Cindy Waldron, 46, was taken by a croc at Thornton Beach, north of Cairns.
Among those leading the charge was the federal MP Bob Katter, who said shooting safaris would reduce the “unprecedented” population.
Liberal National MPs Jason Costigan and Dr Christian Rowan have expressed support for a conversation about the practice, however Irwin says science doesn’t support it.
“Crocodiles are an apex predator and crucial to the ecosystem, keeping water ways and wetlands healthy,” she said. “Crocodiles eradicate the weak, sick and injured wildlife, leaving only the healthy to prosper.”
She said her late husband, Steve Irwin, had always encouraged an appreciation for the reptiles. “It is much better to educate people about croc safety than destroy one of our tourism icons,” she said.
The environment minister, Dr Steven Miles – who last week labelled Costigan a “nut job” in parliament for his comments – demanded the LNP leader, Tim Nicholls, reveal his party’s position.
“I call on him to finally grow a spine, and rule out a cull,” he said.
The state government allocated $5.8m over three years for crocodile management after Waldon’s death and admitted there was not enough scientific certainty about whether numbers were rising or falling.
Dr Laurence Taplin, who conducted a statewide croc survey in the late 1980s and is assisting with a new survey, said a science-based approach was needed to inform croc management.
“The current debate echoes similar controversies in the late 1980s,” Taplin said. “The science we did back then showed clearly there was a great gulf between anecdotal claims of exploding crocodile populations around Queensland and the reality on the ground.”
Nearly 50 crocodiles have been removed from the Cairns region so far this year.