Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wighty Houdini croc captured

After twenty three days since he was first spotted at Cockle Bay on Magnetic Island, the crocodile we've called Wighty Houdini was captured this morning at Ned Lees Creek on Magnetic's west coast and Magnetic Times was on hand to document the drama as it unfolded.

The 3.5 metre estuarine croc which had been relocated from the tip of Cape York to Barramundi Creek in a National Park, about 50kms south of Townsville was fitted with a satellite tracker as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Croc's in Space program - a research project designed to understand the movements of saltwater crocs. The project went pear-shaped however when Wighty (named after a local who first reported him) and Houdini (following an amazing escape from an EPA netted creek) decided, a month or so after his release into the Haughton River delta, a place with a low density of the critters, to make his way north, in what could have been an attempt to return 1000kms home to Bamaga on the tip of Cape York.

Instead of simply passing by, for reasons unknown, W.H. arrived at Magnetic Island where he began to explore the creeks and beaches and, in so doing, making life both exciting for locals and tourists but having a massive impact on businesses reliant on water sports.

It was therefore very sad to learn that Pleasure Divers in Arcadia actually closed their doors for business yesterday after suffering extensive losses since being prevented from taking divers into the water.

Magnetic Times spoke this morning to Dave Swinburn, Pleasure Divers' Manager who happened to learn of Wighty's capture and showed up to witness the moment.

Dave, an Englishman, has worked for four years in Australia and is on a Migration Sponsorship visa by which he needs to be working in Australia to stay in the country - his long term dream. Dave told Magnetic Times, "At the moment I'm a bit indifferent (to WH's capture). We closed our doors yesterday. Whether we recover is another matter.

"I've been on the phone to the department about compo. It was their fault - they put him there"

Yesterday Magnetic Times asked Member for Townsville Mike Reynolds if he would support a compensation claim against losses but his only answer was, "If a business owner wishes to proceed with a claim it will be their responsibility to make such a claim to the Queensland Government."

Magnetic Times is presently seeking comment from the EPA on compo but MI's Community Development Association President, Lorna Hempstead has suggested a way through the problem.

She wrote to Mike Reynolds this morning prior to the capture suggesting natural disaster funding as a possibility.

"It would seem that this might be a sensible way for Island businesses and the government to sit down and consider compensation over the income lost due to our crocodile problem, wrote Lorna Hempstead.

"While the EPA officer made a 'wrong call' in the light of subsequent events, I have no doubt that the relocation was done with the best of motives. However, it has gone wrong, and it is the State Government's officers, so it is the Government's problem.

"This event had a clear date of commencement, and will have a closure - hopefully very soon. All affected businesses would be able to demonstrate business loss, and TEL can provide information on the overall drop in tourist numbers, the reach of the negativity of the media reporting and the costs to remediate this with a marketing campaign. Could you advise the most direct course of action for the business community please?

Dave Swinburn said, "Hopefully the government will do their job and look after its constituents. If they don't what's the point of them being there?"

A rally to protest the government's seeming intransigence on the issue will be held at Alma Bay at 1pm on Sunday.

Following is a Magnetic Times photo essay on the capture of the now infamous croc, Wighty Houdini who is now on his way to an EPA holding pen before being offered to zoos and croc farms.

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