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Australia to boost crocodile exports

Australia to boost crocodile exports article image

Crocodiles have been a protected species in Australia for decades and as a result their numbers have increased significantly.

In a dramatic turnaround the Northern Territory Government is now looking to increase the export of crocodile products in a bid to make local waterways safer for residents and tourists.

Under a new Saltwater Crocodile Wildlife Trade Management Plan (WTMP), which came into effect at the start of the year, the Northern Territory's government is encouraging the export of excess crocodiles, eggs and skins.

“Significantly, the WTMP supports the growth of industry by allowing an annual harvest ceiling of 90,000 viable eggs and 1,200 animals," NT Minister for Land Resource Management Willem Westra van Holthe said in a statement.

"This represents a 40 percent increase for eggs and a 100 percent rise for animals over the previous five-year plan limit."

The eggs taken from the wild would be sent to crocodile farms for incubation, while live animals could be used for breeding or the export of skin and other body parts.

The local government hopes to benefit more from the deadly reptile, which is rounded up in the hundreds each year to protect residents.

Dangerous pests

The reptiles were considered a dangerous pest in the Northern Territory and hunted almost to extinction before being officially protected in 1971.

The population has swollen since then, posing dangers for swimmers, boaters and fishermen.

More than 250 crocodiles were removed from waterways around Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory, last year including a 4.25m long male.

"Saltwater crocodiles were removed from many parts of the territory... including Darwin Harbour, the northern suburbs as well as tidal creeks and inlets, meaning they could be anywhere at any time," ranger Tom Nichols said.

Safari hunts

The Australian government rejected the idea of crocodile safari hunts in 2014, with Environment Minister Greg Hunt saying they risked "cruel and inhumane" behaviour.

NT Minister for Lands, Planning and the Environment Peter Chandler said crocodile farming is an industry growing at a rapid pace.

“The Northern Territory has a reputation for the highest quality skins,” Mr Chandler said.

“Right now the industry is worth approximately $20 million to our local economy.

“With the current rate of expansion that’s expected to grow to $40 million over the next two to three years, great news for the Territory.”

Ninety five per cent of crocodile skins from the Territory are exported overseas, making this industry a big contributor on a national scale.

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