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Transcript
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

06 October, 2005
Today Show interview with Karl Stefanovic

Minister announces decision on crocodile trophy hunting


ANNOUNCER:
As you've just heard in the news, the Federal Government has decided not to allow recreational crocodile hunting in the Northern Territory. It's an issue that's been thrown into the spotlight because of several croc attacks - two of them fatal. But the matter is really more about Australia's position on the sport of killing rather than a way to control rogue crocodiles. Federal Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, joins us live from Canberrra. Good morning to you.

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
Morning Karl.

ANNOUNCER:
What was wrong with the trophy hunting aspect of this plan?

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
Well the big problem is the humane shooting of crocodiles. There's a big difference between culling programs and programs that manage what are called 'problem crocodiles' - the sort that have attacked humans over recent months - we're not touching that, that's something that goes on regardless. The problem is that if you've got an amateur shooter travelling from overseas to Australia, shooting a crocodile from 50 yards; they're very hard to shoot in a humane way where you can guarantee a kill with a short, first shot and if you hit them without killing them, you've then created another problem crocodile. That's the real story. It's bad for the crocodile, it's inhumane. They can live in agony and pain for many years after having an eye shot out, for example, or having their tail damaged; they become problems, they come near human communities and you're making the problem worse rather than solving it. It's not humane for the crocodiles and it's not good for the rest of the population.

ANNOUNCER:
Is this going to stop trophy hunting altogether?

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
Yes it will; it should do. The business - as I'm told by the Northern Territory government and other experts - would only take place if it was to see the trophies exported; that is the heads of the crocodiles and the skins exported. I'm banning that today, or continuing a ban, leaving it in place. I think it's also a bad message to send to the rest of the world, Karl. Australia is regarded worldwide as a place with unique wildlife, with an incredible, unique environment; and I think it's an incredibly bad message to send out to the rest of the world that we're going to invite people in to shoot up our wildlife, and particularly our ancient, pre-historic wildlife such as crocodiles.

ANNOUNCER:
You have approved, though, a management plan, haven't you? What does that entail?

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
This continues the existing management regime in the Northern Territory. It allows them to cull crocodiles using professional wildlife officers; they've been doing that for some time. It's one of the few places where culling of crocodiles occurs but they've got a radically altered population of crocodiles in the Northern Territory. Back in the 70's crocodiles were nearly wiped out up there, they have a unique situation. Because they were nearly wiped out in 1970 they have virtually no old crocodiles, whereas in Queensland and Western Australia they don't use culling, they have a natural crocodile population where they have some very old crocs who sort of look after and make sure the younger ones behave. And we tend in Queensland and Western Australia to have management without culling. The Northern Territory's quite unique and they seem to need this system to maintain some sort of balance in the population.

ANNOUNCER:
We have featured a number of experts in the last couple of weeks who have said the number of crocodiles has increased dramatically, and obviously you wouldn't deny that there have been more attacks. What do you put that down to then?

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
Well I think in the Northern Territory there has been, as I've said, there's a natural population there. Mankind nearly wiped out crocodiles in the Northern Territory 30 years ago so you only have relatively young crocodiles. Crocodiles grow to up to more than 100 years old; they have a natural family structure where the older ones sort of make sure the younger ones behave; they teach them behavioural patterns and that's not happened in the Northern Territory so there is a lack of population balance in control. I'd say in WA and Queensland it's far more natural and far more controlled. People have got to learn to live with crocodiles, they were here for thousands of years before we were here, you've got to make sure that when you go to places where crocodiles live in their natural habitat that humans have a deep respect for them. I don't think that you manage the environment or you respect the environment by looking at a creature like a crocodile at the top of the food chain, a pre-historic creature, a magnificent creature; it is inhumane and silly to say just because they're populations are returning to normal we should go and shoot them and kill them. We should actually respect them, respect them as part of the very unique natural and beautiful environment which Australia is host to.

ANNOUNCER:
Senator it was a decision that you gave great consideration, we appreciate your time.

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
Thanks, Karl.

Commonwealth of Australia