Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary curator Brad Cooper feeds Jupiter, the 4.3m crocodile.
Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary curator Brad Cooper feeds Jupiter, the 4.3m crocodile.

No room at the inn, says croc park

THE less fortunate of Queensland's captured crocodiles are destined to become shoes, handbags or farm breeders but for the biggest of the bunch, a private lagoon and daily room service awaits.

Crocodiles larger than 4m are considered "iconic" and cannot be put down. By law, traditional owners also get a say in which zoo or wildlife sanctuary the crocodile will live out its days.

The most famous of those in recent times has been Jupiter, the battle-scarred 4.3m crocodile captured outside the casino on Townsville's tourist strip The Strand last year.

When he arrived at the nearby Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary missing an eye and a third of his teeth, staff thought Jupiter was at least 70 years old but after some love, care and a recovered appetite - the sanctuary regularly puts out a call for "old chooks and noisy roosters" to be humanely dispatched and stored to keep up with the hungry reptile's daily dietary demands - he is now believed to be closer to 50.

Billabong curator Brad Cooper takes great pride in caring for the sanctuary's newest resident and educating visitors on the country's most resilient and fearsome predator but he knows his new boarder is also a prime example of the problem the Queensland Government will soon face.


A revised expected life span of up to 40 more years means Jupiter and the sanctuary's other resident crocodile Bully, who was also captured for exhibiting "troublesome" behaviour around humans, will likely be all the staff can handle for several decades.

Should the Queensland's Government's survey confirm a recovered crocodile population, Mr Cooper would like to see a "bottom up" approach to curbing numbers via the harvesting of eggs rather than a "top down" cull of mature adults.

The model would mirror the system in the Northern Territory that has not only reduced the numbers of juvenile crocodiles but provided jobs for indigenous rangers.

"There are only so many sanctuaries and zoos available," Mr Cooper said.

"But euthanasia should only ever be considered as a last resort.

"We are seeing more around here and it is having an impact - there's a notable drop in surf lifesaving numbers at Forrest Beach and people willing to swim at The Strand.

"I think the survey is a good starting point.

"We need to work out how many there are first and then ensure an outcome which is good for the crocs and good for the public."


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