Crocodile death necessary, says researcher

Last updated 22:25 19/08/2014

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The shooting of the popular albino-headed crocodile Michael Jackson was unfortunate but necessary, a researcher says, after the reptile killed a man on the Adelaide River.

The 57-year-old fisherman was trying to free a snagged line when the 4.5-metre crocodile attacked him about 5.30pm on Monday.

Police and rangers scouring the crocodile-infested river by boat that night shot and killed the crocodile and recovered the man's body.

His wife witnessed the attack and was treated by paramedics at the scene for shock.

"They acted appropriately to shoot him but it's a real shame they had to do it," Adam Britton, a crocodile researcher at Charles Darwin University, said.

"He is a well-known, well-loved crocodile."

He said albinism is "incredibly rare" in crocodiles and Michael Jackson was a main attraction for tourists on the numerous Jumping Croc cruises based along the river, where boats travel the river dangling meat attached from hooks for crocodiles to jump up and snatch.

"It was always a thrill when he appeared," Dr Britton said.

He said there was no evidence the cruises made the crocodiles more aggressive or likely to attack humans and if anything they proved crocodile management and tourism were viable and a boost for the economy.

"If a crocodile attacks someone, particularly at a place where there's a lot of tourism, and with people using boat ramps, it makes it more dangerous because that croc has figured out it can take someone and is more likely to try it again," he said.

This is the fourth fatal crocodile attack in the top end in the past 12 months.

Last year a 24-year-old man was killed swimming across the Mary River and a boy was taken at a billabong at Jabiru in January.

A fisherman was snatched off his boat as he emptied a bucket in a Kakadu river two months ago and a crocodile shot on the Tiwi Islands two weeks ago was suspected of killing a local man who disappeared and is yet to be found.

Dr Britton said fatal crocodile attacks were only slowly on the rise, from one death per year to 1.5 or two.

But Chief Minister Adam Giles said the incident was "a sign that the density and population of crocs in the NT is becoming somewhat of an issue".

"We don't want to see a knee-jerk reaction," he said in Darwin on Tuesday. Cabinet would consider culling as a long-term policy, as well as safari hunting.

"It's not about going out and randomly killing crocs, it's about having a well-developed plan that protects the interests of the animal but also the interests of the general public," Mr Giles said.

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He also said the government would look at improving its crocodile awareness education campaign.

Dr Britton said territorians are becoming complacent and deaths are not the way people should be reminded about crocodile safety.

"This man almost certainly would have known there were crocodiles in the river and he probably even knew the croc that took him," he said.

"For a fleeting a moment, he should have thought about that; he took a little risk and that was enough."


- AAP

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