The Northern Territory Government is yet again seeking support from the federal government, this time the new Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister for crocodile safari hunting, according to ABC News Online.
Last year the Federal Government rejected the Territory’s proposal that would see 25 crocodiles a year killed by trophy hunters.
A friend wrote to me at about that time:
“We in the NT are currently battling the Fed Government over our right to allocate 25 of the 600 wild crocs taken each year by landowners to safari hunters, which can increase the money landowners get for tolerating crocs.
The only difference here is who pulls the trigger and how much the landowner gets. It is all being held up because of concerns of “wounding”, with apparently Steve Irwin being the resident expert advising the Federal Minister.”
There were once less than 5,000 saltwater crocodiles in the Northern Territory. The population was decimated in the late 1940 and 1950s by hunters. A ban was placed on hunting and the exportation of skins in the early 1970s. Croc numbers have bounced back and are now estimated at 70,000.
Ecologist Dr Grahame Webb was involved with the program to rebuild croc numbers. He told me the following three principles were promoted:
1. Public education,
2. A program to contain problem crocs including trying to keep crocs out of Darwin harbor,
3. Ensuring crocs had a commercial value – so landholders saw them as an economic asset rather than a pest.
The program has been successful in so much as numbers are high and about 20,000 eggs and 600 crocs are harvested from the wild each year under a permit system. Eggs sell for about $40 each while crocs sell for perhaps $500.
Many locals, however, resent the crocodiles.
The following arguments have been progressed in favour of the safari hunting proposal:
1. The NT’s crocodile management program was implemented in the late 1970s against fierce opposition from animal rights NGOs, nationally and internationally. Their dire predictions all proved groundless. NT judgement on crocodile management in the NT has a long track-record of being proven correct, whereas the unsubstantiated claims of impassioned animal rights proponents have all proved spurious.
2. With the UN urging Government’s around the world to help achieve development based on environmental sustainability, and with Australia supporting these initiatives, the Federal Government should be proud and supportive of the model sustainable use program implemented in the NT with crocodiles. It is providing the international leadership the UN is seeking.
3. There can be no hunting or fishing of any species without risk of wounding and/or injury to the target species. Nor can there be farming without risk of injury to the species being farmed. Nor can there be cars on the road without road kills of wildlife. Animal welfare provisions and codes are in place throughout developed countries to reduce “unnecessary pain and suffering” within whichever context the human-animal interaction takes place.
4. If the Federal Government assumes wealthy experienced hunters, with the best hunting equipment money can buy, with experienced backup guides in place for a second shot, are amateurs that pose an undue threat to the welfare of crocodiles, then the assumption should be well grounded in fact. It should not be based on psuedoscience or the unsubstantiated opinion of people totally opposed to any hunting, of any species, for any reason.
5. If Government does assume wounding rates and injuries would be excessive – despite the complete lack of supporting evidence – then it raises a series of additional welfare issues Government must also deal with, for example:
* All other forms of hunting and fishing that lead to export would need to be re-evaluated,
* Indigenous people hunting with traditional methods such as spears would by default be labeled as grossly in breach of the Federal Government’s new animal welfare standards,
* Government officers having to destroy problem crocodiles for forensic or other purposes would be in breach of the Federal Government’s animal welfare standards.