Crocodile conservationist Bob Irwin is urging the Queensland Government to close a legal loophole that allows social media users to get away with recklessly entering croc habitat for content – endangering themselves and the crocodiles.
Mr Irwin has engaged the Environmental Defenders Office to draw up amendments to the Nature Conservation Act 1992 after a spate of incidents stoked fears people were increasingly seeking out croc-infested waters to make online content.
These incidents not only endanger those involved but could lead to the culling of healthy crocodiles if they are deemed to be problem crocs after an attack.
The proposed changes would close the gap that stops authorities prosecuting this behaviour by:
- Creating an offence for recklessly using crocodile habitat;
- Giving the Environment and Science Department Chief Executive the power to map crocodile habitat;
- Providing aggravated or increased penalty for an offence under Regulation 334 for disturbing a crocodile; and
- Providing an aggravated offence with an increased penalty for recklessly using a crocodile habitat and or disturbing a crocodile for the purposes of social media publication.
A letter drafted by EDO to Queensland Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon also calls for the legislative amendments to be paired with a public education campaign and resources to allow people to make informed choices when in crocodile habitat highlighting the penalties attracted for reckless interactions. 
The amendments, which are designed to maintain the existing rights of responsible waterway users, are backed by more than 40 Traditional Owners, conservationists, scientists, business owners and community members.
Conservationist Bob Irwin said: “The government says idiots like these are not breaking any laws. Well, I say, change the law!”
Traditional Owner Kathleen Walker, from Wujal Wujal Country north of Kulki/Cape Tribulation, has written to Minister Scanlon supporting the proposed reforms.
“The men who have recklessly entered crocodile habitat have tarnished the reputation of our otherwise safe community and caused two of our totem animals to been killed against our wishes,” Ms Walker said.
“The euthanasia of the two crocodiles because of a recent incident has deeply saddened our people. It was completely unnecessary and avoidable.
“We support the Environmental Defenders Office’s recommendations in the name of creating greater protection for our totem animal, the saltwater crocodile, when human error is involved.
“We would like to see a no-tolerance approach to members of the public who take the risk in crocodile territory and for greater mitigation measures to be legislated.”
EDO Managing Lawyer (North Queensland) Kirstiana Ward said: “These simple changes wouldn’t stop anyone fishing or safely enjoying areas where crocs live. They close a legal loophole that allows people to get away with deliberately and dangerously using crocodile habitat.
“Crocodiles are ambush predators. You don’t see them coming, which means the laws that already prohibit people deliberately interfering with wildlife don’t apply.
“The law reforms we’re proposing are similar to those we have for managing human behaviour with dingoes on K’gari/Fraser Island.
“Communities and crocodiles can peacefully co-exist when people do the right thing. This is not a croc management issue — it is a people management issue.
“We have suggested a legal solution to this problem that is a measured response to protect our valued native species.”
 Letter from EDO to Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon regarding crocodile protection reform.
LETTERS OF SUPPORT
- From Kathleen Walker, representing traditional owners.From crocodile expert, University of Queensland Emeritus Professor Gordon Grigg.
- From the Humane Society International Wildlife Campaigner Dr Louise Boronyak.
- From Croc Attack Specialist + Researcher, Brandon Sideleau (CrocAttack website): “Human behavior has a greater influence on crocodile attack frequency than crocodile population density. If human behavior in crocodile habitat were better managed, these incidents would likely become very rare.”
EDO | James Tremain | 0419 272 254