Department stands by decision to remove Howard the Crocodile


Victoria Stone-Meadows


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The four-metre crocodile knowns as 'Howard' who lives in Salt Water Creek will be removed by the Department of Environment and Science. Image: David White.

The Queensland Department of Environment and Science will continue to target Howard the Crocodile for removal despite significant backlash.

The decision was made two weeks ago to remove the four-metre crocodile from Salt Water Creek in the Douglas Shire after it was reported to the department.

The decision drew ire from many people in the community, prompting a backlash that included a letter by 10-year-old Elroy Woods pleading for Howard to be left alone.

Howard is yet to be captured by the Department but a spokesperson said they would continue to target the animal for removal.

“Crocodiles that pose a threat to human safety are targeted for removal under the Queensland Crocodile Management Plan,” the spokesperson said. 

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“The Department must work to achieve a balance between the need to protect public safety, and the need to conserve estuarine crocodile populations in the wild.

“While a trap has been set for the crocodile, it has not yet been captured. DES continues to target this crocodile for removal from Salt Water Creek.” 

Under the Queensland Crocodile Management Plan, the Mossman Daintree Road within the Douglas Shire is in Zone E (General Management Zone).

Crocodiles displaying dangerous behaviour in Zone E are targeted for removal.

The Department deemed Howard to be a dangerous crocodile because he did not move when approached by humans.

Owner and Operator of Solar Whisper Solar Whisper Daintree River Crocodile and Wildlife Cruises, David White, said he has never known Howard to be a dangerous animal.

Mr White has been working on the Daintree River and surrounding waterways for about 22 years and is very upset by the Department’s decision.

“It’s the zoning, unfortunately, because he is close to a road it means they take him away and they will take him to a farm to most likely be killed; It’s very sad,” he said.

“All the kids that grew up there, they know how to behave accordingly and it’s quite safe to see him, he doesn’t come up on the land.

“There is a lot of hysteria around crocodiles but they want to just lay there and enjoy the sun.

“No doubt they can be dangerous but as long as we know the risks and behave accordingly, there isn’t a problem.”

Furthermore, Mr White said studies have shown when a dominant male croc is removed from an area; it’s often to the detriment of public safety.

“It’s been proven when you take a dominant croc from a river the younger males move into the territory and are more aggressive,” he said.

“It can lead to having more crocodiles than before and crocs that have had to fight for the area which can be more dangerous to tourists and viewers.”

A study from the University of Queensland that looked into crocodile social hierarchies supports this claim.

“Dominant male removal can cause social perturbations and can increase movement and immigration from neighbouring areas,” the report reads.

Mr White said he understands crocodiles need to be removed in some cases but doesn’t think Howard poses a threat to humans.

“I think there are cases there where there is a risk and a clear and present danger and they need to removed, but in this case, he is not bothering anyone and is not a risk,” Mr White said.

“There needs to be more of a focus on education rather than eradication and I think they are overreacting in this case.”

The Department of Environment and Science have not specified that the crocodile would be destroyed when captured. Standard procedure when removing problem crocodiles is to relocate to a farm or zoo.

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