A far north Queensland tourism operator who found a young crocodile “left to starve to death” after having its mouth taped shut says he is appalled by the act of cruelty.
David White, a long-time crocodile tour operator in the Daintree, said he and his crew decided to search for the animal on Saturday night after a member of the public reported seeing the young croc in the southern part of a waterway near a residential area.
“Some cruel people had caught this young crocodile, [a] little baby one, and taped up its nose to let it die a long, slow death of starvation,” Mr White said.
He said he thought the chances of locating the animal would be very slim, but his team felt compelled to try.
“We felt horror … it’s so appalling that someone could do such an awful thing,” he said. “It would have been better off just to kill it straight up.
“We got there and we saw a splash and we waited ’til it got dark and then we got the spotlight out.”
Mr White filmed their expedition and said they were surprised when the animal was unexpectedly spotted.
“The first little pair of eyes we saw were the ones we were looking for,” he said.
It was amazing, like looking for a needle in the haystack.”
He said catching the animal proved more of a challenge, with the crew nearly giving up after losing sight of the animal, before Mr White spotted it scrambling into nearby mangroves.
“We kept on trying to corner it. I saw an opportunity and I jumped out and got it,” he said.
“He’s only young. He was less than a metre-long, about a two-year-old crocodile … obviously distressed, so we did what we could to calm it down.”
Mr White said they removed the tape from the croc’s mouth and set it free.
‘Never had anything like this’: RSPCA
Michael Beatty from RSPCA Queensland said it would be hard to prove the act was deliberate.
“If this was done deliberately and this young crocodile was released back into the wild, that’s just appalling because you’re sentencing it to die, and a slow, painful death of starvation,” he said.
“That is really depressing if that’s the case, but you hope someone would not have done that.
“But if they’ve deliberately set out to torture that animal then it really is appalling.
“To the best of our knowledge we have never come across anything like this.”
Mr Beatty said anyone convicted of animal cruelty faced up to three years in prison or a fine of up to $240,000.
Mr White said he was opposed to proposed legislation from the Katter’s Australian Party aimed at setting up crocodile-culling programs across northern Queensland.
Mr White said any crocodiles culled would likely be replaced by other animals keen to take over their territory.
“This is hysteria,” he said. “Not good for anyone – the people or the crocodiles.
“At the moment it is really disturbing. It’s like a mob mentality.”