Authorities in Queensland have launched an investigation after a massive 5.2-metre crocodile was found shot dead near Rockhampton yesterday.
The body of the male saltwater croc was found in a creek near the Fitzroy River with a single gunshot wound. The bullet was reportedly still lodged in its head.
At 5.2-metres, the croc ranks as one of the largest found in the wild in Australian history. The body of the animal was found by state environment officers following a tip-off from a member of the public. It was then transported to a nearby boat ramp where forensic police conducted an initial examination, before transporting it to a local farm for a full post-mortem.
The croc is classified as an “iconic” animal, given it measures in at greater than 5-metres. It is a crime to illegally kill or take crocodiles in Queensland, and the penalties range from a fine of more than $28,000 for charges that fall under the Nature Conservation Act, up to a maximum of three years’ in jail for crimes of animal cruelty.
Police & EHP officers are continuing to investigate after a 5.2m crocodile was found shot dead near Rockhampton yesterday. pic.twitter.com/VE3cH3aHGv
— Queensland Police (@QldPolice) September 21, 2017
Beyond the criminal aspect, however, authorities now fear that the croc’s death will create a power vacuum for the crocodile population in the Fitzroy River, with younger male crocs at risk of exhibiting increased aggressive behaviour as they compete to fill the void left by the giant alpha croc.
Biodiversity operations manager Michael Joyce warned that members of the public need to be vigilant around the Fitzroy River region, because the dead croc had played an important role in keeping the river “in check.”
People need to clearly understand the death of this animal has changed the balance of the crocodile population in the Fitzroy and we can expect increased aggressive activity by younger male crocodiles.
That’s because they will be competing to take the dominant position which is now vacant. I cannot stress strongly enough the need for all river users to be aware of the risks.
The simple fact of the matter is that he is a crocodile that does spend a fair bit of time controlling the river and controlling the young animals that are in the river – an important part of our ecosystem and he was certainly well outside of the crocodile management zone.
QLD Police have appealed to the public for anyone with information to come forward.