A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Monday, June 07, 2004

The real-life Jurassic Park.....

I admit that I somewhat salaciously wallowed in this distinctively 'downunder' piece from The Independent (June 7), 'The crocs are biting back', dealing with the inevitable dilemmas involved in managing, on the one hand, a burgeoning population of Jurassic leftovers - namely 2m- to 5m-long 'salties', i.e. Northern Territory crocs, - and, on the other, the new arrivals in the pond, Homo sapiens touristicus:

"'It was sitting in the water like a dog with a bone,' says Lindner. 'Time stood still for me. I watched it swim along with the girl in its mouth. It wouldn't let go.' It distressed him, too, that the crocodile had to be killed. 'It was an identity croc that was well known to us.'"

"There have been numerous other incidents, in and outside Kakadu. Crocodiles are getting bolder. An 11-year-old Aboriginal girl was recently attacked. A 22-year-old man was killed last year in the Finniss river, south of Darwin. Salau was mauled while conducting a night-time survey on a beach north of Kakadu. 'He came up from behind, grabbed my foot and dragged me off,' he says. 'He got me by the stomach and we were rolling around in the sand. I managed to get my arm round his head and he let go. It was horrific.'"

Indeed, the stuff of many a Hollywood nightmare. I just goggle at the idea of 'identity crocs', by the way. "Hi! big feller! Got your identity card there? Owch! No need to take it like that... just checking! Now let's see if those teeth marks fit..."

Crocs evolved way back in the Triassic and the Jurassic - I believe the oldest fossil is around 240 million years. The 'salties' I saw when I visited Kakadu were enormous and very fast. One of my Ph.D. students also had a terrible time with them when she was researching fire ecology just outside the National Park - her funding body, if I remember correctly, even provided her with a gun!

Thus, it's down to that age-old question - to cull or not to cull? In this case, I suspect, both crocs and tourists!

Philip, an old croc himself ..... coffee by the billabong, my dear? Dundee cake?

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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