Northern Territory Leader Calls for Crocodile Population Control After Fatal Attack

July 6, 2024 by No Comments

The Northern Territory’s leader has called for control of the territory’s booming crocodile population, stating that it cannot be allowed to surpass the human population, following the fatal attack of a 12-year-old girl while swimming.

Since crocodiles were granted protection under Australian law in the 1970s, their numbers across Australia’s tropical north have surged from 3,000 to 100,000, outnumbering the Northern Territory’s human population of just over 250,000.

The girl’s death occurred weeks after the territory approved a 10-year plan for crocodile management, which includes targeted culling at popular swimming spots but refrains from a return to widespread culls. Crocodiles pose a risk in most of the Northern Territory’s waterways, but crocodile tourism and farming contribute significantly to the economy.

“We can’t have the crocodile population outnumber the human population in the Northern Territory,” Chief Minister Eva Lawler told reporters Thursday, according to Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “We do need to keep our crocodile numbers under control.”

The girl vanished while swimming in a creek near the Indigenous community of Palumpa, southwest of Darwin, the territory’s capital. After an extensive search, her remains were discovered in the river system where she disappeared, with injuries indicating a crocodile attack.

The Northern Territory recorded 15 deaths between 2005 and 2014, with two more in 2018. As saltwater crocodiles can live for up to 70 years and continue growing throughout their lives, reaching lengths of up to 23 feet, the number of large crocodiles is increasing.

Lawler, describing the death as “heartbreaking,” informed reporters that the Northern Territory budget had allocated $337,000 for crocodile management in the upcoming year.

Lia Finocchiaro, the region’s opposition leader, told reporters that greater investment was necessary, according to NT News.

The girl’s death “sends a message that the Territory is unsafe and on top of law and order and crime issues, what we don’t need is more bad headlines,” she said.

Professor Grahame Webb, a prominent Australian crocodile scientist, told the AuBC that enhanced community education was needed, and the government should fund Indigenous ranger groups and research into crocodile movements.

“If we don’t know what the crocodiles are likely to do, we’re still going to have the same problem,” he said. “Culling is not going to solve the problem.”

Efforts are ongoing to trap the crocodile responsible for the attack, police said on Thursday. Crocodiles are territorial, and the one responsible is likely to remain in nearby waterways.