Yesterday I heard a story about a 'rogue saltie' being shot on an island off the Northern Territory because it was 'acting menacingly' near a beach. Rangers had been notified by police a couple of weeks previously that a large crocodile had taken a dog and was threatening others. Yesterday morning, rangers were on the beach and shot a 3.5-metre croc as it snapped a dog's leg. When they opened up its stomach, shock horror, they found dog parts.
They obviously shot the culprit, right? But were they sure when they pulled the trigger?
In any case, that'll learn the other crocs. 'Don't you go after those dogs on the beach,' they'll warn each other, 'you'll get shot.'
I don't get it. When an idiot goes swimming off a beach where a Great White has been spotted days ago or there's a great big notice saying Beware of Shark, and he's attacked and dies, people set out to search for and kill the shark. What does that achieve apart from exacting some sort of specious revenge? How many such hunts succeed in locating a shark at all, and how can they be sure they've identified the killer? How does this prevent other sharks from attacking swimmers?
The slaughtering of Tasmanian Tigers to extinction began with the largely misguided belief of early European settlers that these predators were slaughtering huge numbers of stock. It was too late by the time they realised, 'Oops, lots of other predators (such as wild dogs, Tasmanian Devils, and Wedge-tailed Eagles, not to mention Aborigines and itinerants) are taking our lambs as well as the Tiger.' Large tracts of land were unsuitable for sheep rearing and one mistake compounded another. These days we think we know better than we did then, but in fact we're still on a steep learning curve as far as ecosystem management is concerned.
Wouldn't it be better if people just didn't go swimming until the shark had moved on? Use the pool for a while instead? And keep dogs in the yard rather than letting them roam the beach? Actually, there are far, far too many dogs in Australia. The Aussies are more dog crazy than the Poms, which I didn't think was possible. Brisbane is dog city. Couples have a matching pair. They go out to work, leaving the animals to bark in the yard all day. Then they take them to the dog-off-leash areas where they all bark some more – the dogs, that is. As habitation encroaches on wild areas, domestic animals pose an increasing threat to wildlife. I'm tempted to say, we could well afford to lose a few dogs to crocs, but I'd probably be shot, too; or pilloried at least.
On Fraser Island, dingoes that attack tourists are put down. If humans are stupid enough to leave their food debris lying around, let their children wander off, or try to attract a dingo's attention for a photograph, when the signs make the risks perfectly clear, there will be dilemma and conflict. But killing an offending dingo will not prevent stupidity and its consequences in the future. There are too many people on Fraser Island and they've messed it up. Dingoes were there long before backpackers or off-roaders or fisher people. Leave them be and reduce visitor numbers accordingly.
Let the animals alone. Reassess your position in the wilderness. Re-evaluate your expectations. Modify your behaviour. Back off.