One of the frustrations of being a hunter in Australia is that decisions on the sustainable use of native wildlife (e.g. hunting) are often made based on the perceived acceptability of that use by an increasingly urbanised society. Science-based assessments of the outcome of that use are often ignored. Usually such illogical decision making relates to the cute and cuddly species, which are seen to be more desirable than the ‘uglies’. Developments in the Northern Territory, however, have shown that this can also happen with crocodiles.
As reported by ABC on-line news, it seems Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has pushed aside the wishes of the Northern Territory government, the economic welfare of local indigenous communities and the opinion of a leading crocodile scientist. Instead, he has been influenced by the unfounded and emotional protestations of anti-hunting animal rights groups.
The report states that Territory Government wanted to trial trophy hunting of large saltwater crocodiles. The Federal Environment Department has been consulting with traditional landowners, environmental groups, industry stakeholders and animal rights groups about the proposal. Last week, however, Mr Hunt said the plan would not be allowed to go ahead.
“My view is that there was a risk of cruel and inhumane treatment. That was, in my view, inappropriate,” Mr Hunt said. “There have been a series of ministers, both on the Coalition side and on the other side, that have periodically rejected this.
“So no crocodile safaris in the Northern Territory.”
A leading crocodile scientist said he was disappointed with Mr Hunt’s decision. Professor Grahame Webb, who runs Crocodylus Park in Darwin, said the Federal Government was not prepared to stand up to animal rights activists. “They’re frightened of the animal rights and animal welfare lobbies down in Canberra, I don’t think they care too much about landowners and crocodiles up here,” he said.
“I would say they’re being lobbied by people who just think this is outrageous.”
Jida Gulpilil from the Gupulul Marayuwu Aboriginal Corporation says the decision is unjust and that safaris could have provided much-needed economic development. “It’s another feather in the Government’s hat when you are talking about taking away the rights of Aboriginal people,” he said.
“For the Federal Government to come in under the Crown, lawlessly, and take away the rights of Aboriginal people to continue hunting and gathering through this modern day and age that we all live in and have evolved through, is unfair and it’s unjust.”
The majority of saltwater crocodiles are found on Aboriginal lands and waterways. The Territory Government wanted to trial the hunting for two years, with as few 50 of the large crocodiles killed annually.
The Environment Department said it received hundreds of formal submissions from industry groups and environmental organisations, including Humane Society International. Society spokeswoman Alexia Wellbelove said there was no significant economic benefits for indigenous communities and a real risk of destroying other tourism brands. “(It) rewards very few or benefits very few people,” she said.
“We believe very strongly that there is far more potential in the remote areas of the Top End in ecotourism than there are for elitist safari hunting activities.”
As usual, the team at Sporting Shooter would love to hear your opinion on this issue. I think you know what mine is.