The Australian government may allow safari hunting of saltwater crocodiles in the Northern Territory on a trial basis.
The Territory, which has its own regional government, has been lobbying the federal government for over a decade to allow crocodile hunting safaris, according to Australia's ABC News.
Saltwater crocodiles are a protected species in Australia — a fact promoted by the late Steve Irwin, a.k.a. the "Crocodile Hunter" — but the Territory culls 500 adult crocs a year, citing conservation reasons.
The ABC quoted Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson as saying there was an abundance of crocodiles in the Top End — as the Territory is known locally — and that safari hunting would create much-needed jobs for Aborigines and also provide a boost to the local tourism industry.
"Come to the Territory and bag a croc," Henderson reportedly said. "If that is what people want to do and they are prepared to pay for it, I am all for it."
Under the plan, 50 crocodiles would be hunted for trophies over a period of two years.
The Australian Associated Press, meantime, quoted Bob Irwin, Steve Irwin's father, as saying recently in a radio interview that his famous son — killed while making a documentary in 2006, after a stingray's venomous barb pierced his heart — would object vehemently to safari hunts.
"Can you imagine a boatload of tourists seeing some big white hunter shooting an animal that they came to photograph?"
However, scientist Grahame Webb, who runs the Crocodylus Park in Darwin, the Territory's capital, said he supported the plan.
"It adds to the value that crocodiles produce, and adds to the incentive to conserve them," he said, ABC reported.
"At the moment we kill crocodiles in the wild so that someone can own a handbag. There is nothing different in killing a crocodile in the wild so someone can own a trophy."
The Northern Territory News reported that the Australian Government would open up the proposal for croc safaris to public comment.
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