'We can be world leaders': Innovative plan to track beach crocodiles

FOUR MILE CROCS

Mark Murray

Journalist

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TRACKED: A plan to track large crocodiles with GPS is being explored in Port Douglas. IMAGE: Supplied.

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PORT Douglas could become a world leader in crocodile management if a new GPS tracking program is supported.

An innovative plan is being hatched by a group of local businesses to place GPS tracking devices on the biggest crocodiles in Dicksons Inlet and the surrounding area to better safeguard Four Mile Beach.


It comes after the famous tourist beach was brought to a standstill on Monday as a ‘cheeky’ 3.5m to 4m crocodile emerged just 20 metres from shore in broad daylight.

“We’re the last patrolled beach in Northern Queensland and at the frontier of where the crocodiles are encroaching,” said Kelvin Brown from Port Douglas Water Sports and Beach Hire.

“If we do this smart, the rest of the world can learn off us.”


Under the plan, the beach patrol hut and local police would be fitted with GPS monitors giving them the precise location of ‘the five biggest crocs’ at any given time or day. 

Brown said it would be a ‘win-win’ for the area.

“We can be world leaders and the first to do it, and that would be an amazing tick in the box for Port Douglas,” Brown said.


“You’re not taking away the largest crocodile so another large one, which you don’t know its behavior, can move in. You’re not killing the crocodile and you’re not putting the crocodile in a farm.

“It’s conservative management of crocodiles and it can be unique to Port Douglas.”

Crocodiles have been tracked at several non-urban locations in Australia including the Wenlock River on the Cape York Peninsula. The ‘Crocodile Tracks’ program was launched in 2008 by the University of Queensland which became the largest and longest study of its kind.


Brown said he hoped funding for the tracking program would be explored through local and state government grants.

“I’m not saying we’re going to make the beach completely safe, but we’re going to make it a lot safer if we know where the four biggest crocodiles are at any given time,” he said.

“If you monitor them and you have a crocodile, like the one recently that’s getting a bit too cheeky, you could trap it and take it away.

“There’s always naysayers and people telling you why you can’t do something, but we have the technology and wouldn’t it be great for Port Douglas to lead the world on this?”

Surf Life Saving Queensland is also planning to use drones in an attempt to spot crocodiles earlier, a technique that’s being used for shark surveillance further south.

BETTER BEACH INFORMATION NEEDED


Brown, who has operated on Four Mile Beach for 15 years, has also called for better tourist information at the main swimming area.

“I propose we shouldn’t just have signage up with just the bad things, we should also have information about the turtles and all the other amazing wildlife,” he said.

“We used to have a big sign on the beach that showed all the wildlife, marine stingers, all the hazards, and I used to see 40 to 50 people reading that sign a day.

“Cairns Regional Council took the sign down and replaced it with two scary signs.

“It would be nice to be able to point tourists to a nice big sign so they can read up on all the information they’re after and about everything that’s amazing about Four Mile Beach.”


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