Two species of crocodile call Australia home; freshwater crocodiles (Crocodylus johnsoni), which are found nowhere else in the world and saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus), which are listed as vulnerable under the Nature Conservation Act (1992).
Up until the 1970’s crocodiles were hunted in Australia to a point where population numbers were greatly reduced. Laws were then introduced to protect them which have seen numbers recover.
Whilst freshwater crocodiles are not typically associated with attacks on humans, saltwater crocodiles are known as key predators in the aquatic environment and humans fall well within their prey size range. Between 1971 and 2004 there were 62 unprovoked attacks from saltwater crocodiles on humans resulting in injury or death and there have been an increasing number of attacks from 0.1 per year between 1971 and 1980 to 3.3 per year between 2001 and 2004.
In an attempt to reduce the number of attacks and minimize risks to humans, the Queensland Government has implemented a new management plan for crocodiles adapted from management strategies implemented in the Northern Territory. This new plan takes a three tier approach to crocodile management and places the safety of humans first by aiming to keep crocodiles out of heavily populated areas. Management strategies are determined by a risk based assessment consisting of 3 zones:
- Zone 1: The objective is to prevent crocodiles from entering the zone and remove all crocodiles that enter into it
- Zone 2: The objective is to remove all crocodiles two metres or greater in length or any crocodile displaying aggressive behaviour once a sighting is confirmed
- Zone 3: The objective is to remove crocodiles of concern.
All crocodiles removed from the wild are placed into zoo’s or crocodile farms or, in some cases, are humanely euthanized. ‘Croc wise’ behaviour by residents and visitors in and around the waters of central and north Queensland is also promoted as part of risk management.