Crocodiles hatching at Hartley's Crocodile Adventures. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN
Crocodiles hatching at Hartley's Crocodile Adventures. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN

Croc farm hits back at Terri Irwin

ONE of the largest crocodile farms in Queensland is considering applying for a licence to start collecting croc eggs from the wild - if it can work with traditional owners.

Amendments to the Nature Conservation (Estuarine Crocodile) Conservation Plan, announced by the State Government late last year, will allow 5000 eggs to be harvested annually to approved licence holders.

Hartleys Crocodile Adventures co-owner Peter Freeman, whose 30-year-old croc farm south of Port Douglas can house up to 4000 crocodiles, said a licence application was under consideration.

"If we were going to do something, we'd prefer to do something with the traditional owners up in the Cape, to support them," he said. "We'd look towards Cape York to do it, not look locally."

Terri Irwin, who owns the Sunshine Coast-based Australia Zoo, has called on the government to reverse its decision to allow wild croc egg harvesting in Queensland, claiming the move will compromise croc populations.

"The Queensland State Government is destroying the future generations of an apex predator by allowing the removal of eggs from nests in our most pristine, wild environments," she said.

"This flies in the face of the most comprehensive research conducted on crocodiles.

"Compromising an apex predator initiates a trophic cascade effect, which will reduce the abundance of other animals in the ecosystem.

"The effect of this decision does not bode well for fishing and crabbing industries."

Mr Freeman, however, claimed the activity - introduced in the 1980s in the NT - had actually helped conserve croc populations in the Territory.

"It has ensured the protection of saltwater crocodiles, which are way off the endangered list in the NT, and protection of their habitat because those crocs are now an economic resource," he said.

"It also encourages people to protect the wetlands, and the most important thing is, it has now become a source of income for traditional owners.

"In Queensland, there is a big opportunity for traditional owners - especially up in the Cape - to get some employment and earn some money out of egg collection."