A Weipa grazier has contradicted claims by Member for Leichardt Warren Entsch that the Stones Crossing road , east of the township is open to the public.
The former owner and now lessee of Bertie Haugh Station, John Witherspoon said the road to Stones Crossing had never been gazetted as a public road and had been closed by another owner, Phil Bray since the mid-90’s.
Opening a ‘ring road’ for tourists through Stones Crossing and Bertie Haugh would create problems for both Australia Zoo and Mr Witherspoon who occupies the grazing lease.
“While Mr Entsch says the Irwin family is selfish, he should get his facts right before he says anything about Australia Zoo and its world class research programs into estuarine crocodiles,” Mr Witherspoon said.
“Locals have been using the road for access to the ‘killing fields’ north of the Ducie River, but we are left to clean up afterwards especially disposable baby nappies strewn about the place.
“They take motor bikes and four wheel drives there and generally go for broke which is ok but we can’t be expected to get them out of trouble when they get stuck in boggy gullies or washed down the Wenlock River because they underestimated the fast flowing crossing or get stuck there by high tides.
“Rubbish such as empty beer cans and bottles are not welcome and it is illegal to shoot cattle for a killer or to start bushfires.
He said locals and tourists were jeopardising their lives when driving through the Wenlock River crossing because of its depth, fast flowing water and large holes in the bottom of the river bed.
“And of course the large crocodile population,” he stressed.
Resident manager of Australia Zoo Barry Lyon concurred with Mr Witherspoon confirming the dangerous river crossing was accessible for only four months of the dry season.
“It is a dangerous crossing and only two of us are allowed by the company to use it,” Mr Lyon said.
“We have the biggest crocodile research program in the world going on and we are tracking 139 different crocs to investigate their habits particularly their ability to self-heal after getting massive wounds from other animals.
“The possibility of applying this natural healing method to humans will boost medical science, like the research of a group of scientists who come here to collect plants for medical cures such as Parkinsons disease.”
“We have acoustic-tagged bull sharks, barramundi, swordfish and spear toothed sharks in the Wenlock which has the most diverse varieties of freshwater fish in Australia.”
The Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve has found more than 100 varieties of birds and conducts regular school excursions boasting its own ranger program.
Mr Lyon said it was a unique property supporting major research programs yet has cattle grazing for fire management and economic utilisation of the area.
Mr Witherspoon believes there is a much better ‘ring route’ through Billys Lagoon Station along an existing track to Moreton Telegraph Station.
“This road is much less dangerous than Stones Crossing and would give the Traditional Owners potential for some tourist dollars,” he said.
Far North Queensland inhabitants have long called for a crocodile cull before any more lives are taken. The federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter, an advocate of salt water crocodile culling said that their numbers had reached unprecedented, epidemic levels.
It has become unsafe for Cape York’s 5000 Aborigines to enter any water for fishing or swimming. In the Torres Strait many inhabitants regularly dive along the coastline capturing lobsters, turtle and dugong.
They have reported a large increase in crocodile numbers at their favourite diving locations and are waiting helplessly for an attack to occur.
In the Bloomfield River 100 klm north of Cairns fishermen report that it is impossible to set any crab pots because the large number of crocs destroy them within hours.
One fisherman, ‘Gobbler’ said he had recently returned from a Bloomfield River fishing trip but was “really worried about the large crocs that now follow boats.”
He said boat ramps too are dangerous for fishermen because the crocs lie in waiting for a boat to be launched.
“One large croc followed my boat for a long way when I was checking the pots and any wrong move with the boat could be fatal because they are not afraid of people,” Gobbler said.
“One is five metres long and aggressive, another is 4m, and two others we saw are 3.5m long, and all are potential man-eaters and all were close to Bloomfield (settlement).
“There are far too many and there should be a cull throughout the north right now before there are more people killed.”
The folly of very expensive croc relocation
It took 400 kilometres and just under a month for a Queensland research team to realise that relocating far north Queensland problem crocodiles was never going to be an option.
Several years ago UQ School of Biological Sciences Professor Craig Franklin and his team translocated three saltwater crocodiles from a remote section of Wenlock River in the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve on the west coast of Cape York to various remote locations along the west coast.
Tiny Tim, a male crocodile involved in Professor Franklin’s latest research, detected on Thursday, September 10, 2015, north of Weipa. Photo: Supplied
The aim was to to track their movements and determine if relocation would be a good management strategy for crocodiles who continuously come into contact with humans or livestock.
Two of the crocodiles were released up to 80 kilometres away, along the west coast of Cape York, with one carried via helicopter 400 kilometres to a remote beach on the east coast of Cape York.
This crocodile, which weighed about 350 kilograms and measured 4.5 metres, shocked Professor Franklin’s team at the time by swimming over 400 kilometres around the tip of Cape York in less than 20 days to return home.
A relocated 350kg crocodile swam 400km to get home. Photo: Terry Trewin
This feat not only destroyed any notion of relocating problem crocodiles found in far north Queensland, it also proved, for the first time, that crocodiles use currents to travel long distances, Professor Franklin said.
“When we translocated it from the west coast of Cape York to the East Coast, it didn’t go straight back home, it waited around for several months,” he said.
“It was the first time anyone had shown that crocodiles use currents to travel.
“If they are travelling long distances in river systems they will use tidal movement in and out of the river to facilitate their travel.”
Unfortunately this has meant other more invasive methods have been put in place to manage problem crocodiles.
“If there is a problem animal likely to impact humans or livestock, then the government’s Department of Environment makes all attempts to try and catch that animal and then place it into a farm or zoo; try to find some place that will take it,” Professor Franklin said.
“If they are unable to capture it, they are able to make the decisions to shoot the animal, but they try not to do that.
“In terms of the population, it makes very little difference whether the animal is moved or shot, because its ability to reproduce (in the wild) has been lost.
Professor Franklin’s team has been tagging and tracking crocodiles ever since in a bid to better understand these apex predators.