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Australia Zoo Crocodile Conservation

CONSERVATION PROJECTS

AUSTRALIA ZOO CROCODILE RESEARCH

Wild Croc Egg Harvesting

Carolyn Male MP
Member for Pine Rivers

29 November 2011

Adjournment - Wild Crocodile Egg Harvesting

Mr Speaker

I rise this evening to urge the Department of Environment to refuse a Scientific Purposes Permit which would allow the harvest of wild crocodile eggs from Western Cape York.

In the 2007 debate on the Cape York Peninsula Heritage Bill I raised many concerns- because crocodiles are listed as a vulnerable species under our Nature Conservation Act.

Various amendments were made in the Clauses and I was assured that science would prevail.

The then Minister in his summing up stated that that last thing the government wanted was scientific research being done by people who have an interest in the commercial outcome.

Yet this is exactly what we have. Big Gecko based in the northern territory did the research on behalf of the people who want to harvest eggs.

The legislation also states that there needs to be a baseline study of number, distribution, maturity and the nesting success and survival rate to maturity. Yet all that was presented is an out-of-date, incomplete two year study.

The removal of crocodile eggs at any stage means those eggs have NO chance to become fully grown crocodiles as opposed to some chance.

Removal of crocodile eggs for "research" is starting to sound like the scientific research being conducted by the Japanese on whales - that is, "killing whales to ensure their survival" - not to mention putting whale meat on the menu in restaurants and homes across Japan.

This proposal is similar. Harvest wild crocodile eggs, hatch them, grow them to a certain size, kill them to make handbags and matching shoes - then see what effect this has on the population and survival of our vulnerable crocodiles.

All this proposal will do is give the green light to more illegal harvesting of wild crocodile eggs and ensure that farms are full of wild croc DNA so that nobody can be prosecuted for illegal harvesting. It sets an incredibly dangerous precedent.

Some people claim that croc egg harvesting would be an economic windfall for local indigenous people.

Stealing 50 eggs from wild crocodiles and growing them for a couple of years and slaughtering them is not going to make anyone prosperous. And it is not sustainable.

There are real projects that would provide economic benefits across the Cape for years to come - such as increasing the number of Wild Rivers Rangers, develop tourism ventures such as cultural and fishing tours, bushwalking, camping and bird watching.

Pharmaceuticals can be developed from Cape York plants with royalties going to traditional owners in perpetuity.

The Northern Territory had a million dollar per year project which involved indigenous people in fire management. We could certainly use that in the Cape and it would be an excellent way to get and keep traditional owners on country and managing their own agendas.

A program of camps for local indigenous children to get them back onto country and to experience and participate in a range of bush and cultural experiences will help them develop a stronger knowledge of their traditional culture and foster connections with country.

There are so many research opportunities where traditional owners could partner with universities across Australia and the world.

This is what we should be looking at to provide economic stability and prosperity for local indigenous communities.

If you are going to allow wild crocodile egg harvesting for a vulnerable species - you may as well allow people to "harvest" koala joeys, grow them for a couple of years and use their ears to make fluffy little coin purses.

It is exactly the same thing.

Our crocodiles are listed as a vulnerable species just like koalas.

I call on the Minister to put an end to this nonsense. Commission some real, long-term scientific research, and get the department to act on the other threats to crocodiles such as trophy hunting, illegal fishing, predation of nests by wild feral animals and illegal harvesting and investigate the alleged trade to PNG through Thursday Island of crocodile skins.

Please ensure the survival of our vulnerable crocodiles.