Crocodile-Hunting Plan Rejected by Australian Government

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''Trophy hunting is a practice that belongs to previous centuries,'' the wildlife and habitats program manager for the Humane Society International, Nicola Beynon, said. There would have been no way to ensure that animals would be killed humanely and not left in pain, the group argued.

''Allowing trigger happy tourists loose on Australian animals is not sound wildlife management and would destroy Australia's reputation as an eco-friendly tourist destination, costing millions of dollars in tourist income,'' Beynon said.

Crocodiles fell under the official protection of the Australian government in 1971. A ban on commercial exports, however, was overturned in 1985, allowing the export of more than 10,000 skins a year from farm-raised crocodiles.

Knocked Out

The proposal attracted so much attention that Steve Irwin—best known as TV's "Crocodile Hunter"—invited Australia's federal minister for the environment, Ian Campbell, to observe crocodile behavior at his wildlife park, the Australia Zoo.

The invitation was accepted and Campbell was photographed helping to hold down a crocodile while Irwin, who opposed the hunting plan, fitted the animal with a satellite tracking tag. The headline-grabbing debate came to an end this week when the federal government rejected the safari-hunting plan after nearly two years of consideration.

''I do not believe safari hunting of crocodiles is consistent with a modern-day approach to animal welfare and responsible management,'' Campbell said.

It would have been too difficult to make sure hunting was humane, the environment minister said. The hunt may even have produced more aggressive animals if they were injured but left to live, he added.

''They're very hard to shoot in a humane way, where you can guarantee a kill with a first shot,'' Campbell said.

''If you hit them without killing them, you've then created another problem crocodile. It's inhumane. They can live in agony and pain for many years after having an eye shot out, for example, or having their tail damaged.''

Campbell said he also did not want Australia gaining a reputation for being a country that did not look after its wildlife.

''Australia is regarded worldwide as a place with unique wildlife [and] with an incredible environment. I think it's an incredibly bad message to send out to the rest of the world that we're going in to shoot up our wildlife and particularly our ancient, prehistoric wildlife such as crocodiles.''

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