RISING TO THE BAIT: A large crocodile on the banks of Proserpine River with a rope around its neck.
RISING TO THE BAIT: A large crocodile on the banks of Proserpine River with a rope around its neck. Whitsunday Crocodile Safari

Tour operator "sick and tired" of Prossie River baiting

THE managing director of Whitsunday Crocodile Safari says he is "sick and tired" of seeing crocs fall victim to baiting in the Proserpine River.

Last week, for the fourth time in 12 months, Steve Watson found a crocodile - given the affectionate moniker Fatguts - with rope hanging out of his mouth.

Operating tours on the Proserpine River for more than 18 years, Mr Watson said it had been a consistent problem for a long time.

He said often kangaroo carcases were tied to a rope and then to a four-wheel- drive and used to lure the animal out of the river.

When asked if perhaps young blokes playing the fool after a few riverside beers were responsible, Mr Watson said he had heard from a witness this was not the case.

"It's just d---head behaviour really," he said.

The baiting is regularly reported to the Department of Environment and Science as saltwater crocodiles are protected under Queensland law, but Mr Watson said little action was ever taken to stop the perpetrators.

"We keep reporting it to the authorities but nothing ever seems to happen."

In compliance with the permit required to operate on the river, Mr Watson said he submitted six-monthly reports to the department which regularly mentioned crocodile baiting.

"I never, never hear back about those comments. I put them in there to see if anyone is actually reading them," he said.

Luring crocs to the bank of the river with fresh meat endangered the animals as they ingested the rope and it could end up tangling the animal and causing it to drown.

"The other problem is if the rope is laying in their stomach, and last time Fatguts managed to dislodge it, but there was plastic bag tied to it, there was a dead kangaroo tied to it.

"The rope lays across a valve on their tongue called a palatal valve which is used to seal off the throat when they are under water so they don't drown."

Mr Watson said a stronger presence from the DES was needed on the river and better education was needed to inform the public about the value of the protected species.

"Protected species doesn't seem to mean much anymore and most of the perpetrators are let off with a slap on the wrist, which is a bit disappointing," Mr Watson said.

Last month, a 4.1m crocodile was found dead with a rope attached to its tail. It drowned on a rising tide while trying to free itself from the rope.

The department confirmed it has received reports of crocs being "fed" in the area and stated it is an offence to deliberately bait a protected animal.

"DES has received reports in the past, from time to time, about crocodiles being lured and fed from this location but found no evidence that could lead to a prosecution. DES is investigating the most recent report but has not found any evidence of unlawful activity," a spokeswoman said.

The department stated it is illegal to bail crocodiles in Queensland and the offence carries a maximum financial penalty of $28,383.75.

Katter's Australia Party today reintroduced proposed legislation in Queensland parliament to manage the state's crocodile population.