Depending on who you speak with about this particular reptile, a different image always comes up in the imagination. In fact, it is the crocodile that has become one of the most sought-after creatures around the globe; whether it be for hunting or simply because people wish to see these regal beings up close and personal. (Well, as up close as one would want to get from a creature that is known to not always be too happy, even though there’s always a strange smile pinned to their face.)
So what is the draw when it comes to this particular reptile? Is it the combination of ‘Crocodile Dundee’ and the late ‘Crocodile Hunter’ that makes them a mystery? Something is certainly occurring in this realm, because crocodile hunting is an enterprise that is truly expanding. In fact, you can go on croc hunts from the tropics of Africa to Mozambique and beyond.
Perhaps it’s the mystery; perhaps it’s the terror of going up against those jaws and coming out the victor. But, in the end, whatever the charm may be when it comes to crocodiles – it is most definitely taking over the world of hunting.
Oddly enough, even though many believe that the crocodile is related to some kind of extinct dinosaur, it is actually far closer to the bird family. Found generally in freshwater habitats, such as rivers, lakes and wetlands – the croc also preys on all different kinds of fish, reptiles and mammals. (Let’s face it, he can basically prey on anything he wants to.) And he can certainly be called the ‘King of the Reptiles’ just like the lion still holds the coveted title of ‘King of the Jungle,’ seeing as that crocs have been around for over 65 million years. (Now, that’s hang time!)
However, the most feared croc is still found in Australia; even though these saltwater crocs did almost meet their demise through hunting before becoming a protected species in 1971. Since then…the croc has come back with a vengeance. In fact, there are even cities where the man-eating croc has not only appeared in backyard swimming pools but also has snatched the family pet right off the public beaches. They are now so abundant, it seems that over 150,000 of these giant reptiles are roaming the tropical Top End.
Which means…drama is reappearing where croc hunting is concerned. Safari’s are coming back in abundance mainly because Aboriginal landowners believe that these would not only boost tourism, but also create much-needed jobs in the remote indigenous communities of northern Australia.
Herein lies the rub. Animal welfare advocates are still doing their best to make sure that the croc remains untouched in certain areas. The late Steve Irwin, of ‘Crocodile Hunter’ fame, was always strongly opposed to the fact that crocodiles could be made into nothing more than a trophy for the hunter, but the see-saw seems to be headed in the opposite direction.
Under the latest safari proposal it is stated that fifty of the largest crocodiles will be killed by big-game hunters (overseas hunters, mostly) who would pay a great deal for the privilege. Most all of the money paid would be given to the Aboriginal people, who own more than three-quarters of the land and waterways in the Northern Territory where he crocs reign.
Now, think about taxidermy on these creatures. Saltwater crocodiles can reach twenty feet and weigh more than a ton. No other crocodile species around the globe outranks the seawater crocs; they are the largest and most aggressive species that have ever lived, responsible for killing at least two/three people per year.
The government, who once rejected all proposals when it came to hunting these behemoths, actually agreed to a trial period because of the overabundance that’s occurring; this proposal is supposed to not only thin the population, but remove the ‘problem animals.’ The conservationist view? They’re not against the crocodile being maintained – they must, in order to protect people and the habitat for decades to come. It is the humanity of the kill that has people up in arms.
In addition, by stating that 50 extremely large alpha males will be taken out, that would mean destroying the actual crocs that are in control of the ‘family system’ and are responsible for keeping the younger crocodiles from causing harm to humans. In other words, take out the humongous parent and the ‘kids’ will have a field day causing far more harm than good.
Therefore, it is the gathering of big game hunters who know how to wield a weapon and have the understanding of the creature and the ecosystem that the government wants to have take down the 50 crocs annually. A high level of respect must be paid, which means hunters who simply do not have the wisdom or experience are not part of the ‘call’ for these expeditions.
Whether or not this particular situation ends with tourists going on safari with a zoom camera versus a gun remains to be seen. But, in the end, this is a dangerous creature responsible for the loss of human life that must be maintained.
It will be interesting to see where this battle leads.