The Nature Conservation (Estuarine Crocodile) Conservation Plan 2018 now authorises the harvest of estuarine crocodile eggs under a commercial wildlife harvesting licence subject to strict limitations and requirements. Wildlife Queensland has been kept fully advised by the Department of Environment and Science on this initiative and encouraged to make submissions and attend meetings to discuss the issue.
According to the Plan, any application for a licence must be supported by a harvesting proposal and a report of research – conducted by an appropriately qualified person – about the state of the local crocodile population. Further, the proposed harvest must not adversely affect the local crocodile population, and eggs must only be harvested and transported in accordance with the Australian Government Code of Practice on the Humane Treatment of Wild and Farmed Australian Crocodiles.
Comprehensive monitoring requirements will be required for any areas where egg harvesting is authorised to ensure that there are no impacts to the local crocodile population. The requirements will include annual crocodile population monitoring for all waterways where egg harvesting occurs, and ongoing nest monitoring to track any potential changes to the nesting activity of local crocodile populations.
A new Wildlife Trade Management Plan: ‘Wildlife Trade Management Plan for Queensland Crocodile Farming and Crocodile Egg Harvesting (1 November 2018–31 October 2023)’ has been approved by the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment. This will assist in obtaining an export permit for any crocodile skins or other crocodile products that have come in time from these harvested eggs.
It is also anticipated that there will be positive impacts for some isolated regional communities including potential employment opportunities in the long term.
After reviewing all information available, discussing particular aspects with internationally recognised independent experts and receiving certain assurances from the Department of Environment and Science, Wildlife Queensland supported this initiative subject to a number of conditions, all of which have been met. However, the Society will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure commitments made are in fact delivered and the relevant legislation and licence conditions are complied with.
Although crocodiles are thought to have evolved during the Eocene epoch about 55 million years ago, there is no question conservation of crocodile populations is a complex challenge. It is hoped that harvesting crocodile eggs will provide significant incentive for improved land stewardship and management in such a way as to conserve crocodiles.
Credit must be given where credit is due. On this occasion it was a pleasure to work with the staff of the Department of Environment and Science. Wildlife Queensland was listened to and our voices were heard. Such interactions always provide great hope for the future.