Trophy hunting of large saltwater crocodiles in the Top End could be taking place within a year, according to Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion. And in a wonderfully ironic twist, it could be because of Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s irrational stance against the importation of lion trophies.
According to this report from the ABC, Senator Scullion said he believed hunters would pay $20,000 to $30,000 to bag a 4 to 5-metre long crocodile, bringing much-needed money into impoverished remote Aboriginal communities.
“I know it’s very close,” Senator Scullion said. “There’ll be huge international demand for it and the time is right.”
Around 600 crocodiles are shot under permit in the Northern Territory every year, many because they pose a danger to humans or livestock, but trophy hunting is banned.
Several members of the Abbott Government and successive Northern Territory governments have pushed for Aboriginal communities to be given the choice to sell 20 of the 600 permits to cashed-up hunters on a trial basis.
“I think it’s time that our first Australians can get a bite of the economic bullet,” Senator Scullion said.
He said he believed when the “one-stop shop” environmental agreement between the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory was finalised, the Territory Government should be able to include safari hunting permits in its crocodile management plan.
“This is about science. There’s no difference from crocodiles and flathead except for size and teeth,” he said.
‘People hunting and gathering in supermarkets have lost touch’
Saltwater crocodile numbers have rebounded dramatically in the decades since the ban was put in place and there is significant support for it to be lifted across northern Australia.
Leading crocodile expert Graham Webb said sustainability was not an issue, instead it was an “emotional issue”.
“People living in the cities, hunting and gathering in supermarkets, they’ve lost touch with what it’s like to co-exist with predators. It’s a very big challenge,” Mr Webb said.
Advocates argue the safari hunting industry would open up remote Aboriginal communities and boost the recreational fishing, Aboriginal art and tourism sectors.
Joe Morrison, the chief executive of the Northern Land Council, which assists Aboriginal communities across the Top End, said not all Aboriginal communities wanted safari hunting “but there are a great majority that do want to see this move ahead”.
The Government’s recently released northern Australia white paper made reference to streamlining permits for crocodile souvenir exports, which some Government MPs believed would make it easier to get crocodile heads, skins and other trophies out of the country.
Stuffed lion head fight put croc hunting back on agenda
Crocodile hunting was put back on the Federal Government’s agenda after a bizarre internal fight between the Liberals and Nationals over the importation of stuffed lion heads from Africa.
In March, Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced he was “taking action to protect African lions from the barbaric practice of canned hunting by banning the import and export of trophies”.
Canned hunting is where lions are raised in captivity for the sole purpose of being killed by cashed-up trophy hunters.
Some Nationals were outraged that they had not been consulted and believed Mr Hunt demonised all hunters with some of his remarks.
Ever since, there has been a concerted push by several members of the Government to get the ban on crocodile safari hunting lifted.
“Those people [in the Coalition] who are absolutely fundamental to this decision being made accept that it’s a good decision,” Senator Scullion said.
If the ban is lifted it would be a blow to the Environment Minister.
Just 15 months ago Mr Hunt killed off a similar crocodile safari hunting plan because “there was a risk of cruel and inhumane treatment”.
The NT Government described that decision as a “load of croc”.