Headless Crocodile In North Queensland Beach Discovery Baffles Authorities
The baffling case of a headless crocodile in North Queensland Beachhas captivated authorities and sent the internet abuzz with theories of an interspecies conflict. However, experts believe it's more likely that a human is responsible for the animal's decapitation.
On April 12, the four-meter-long saltwater crocodile was found dead and decapitated on a sandbank near Cow Bay, close to the Daintree Rainforest and about 120 kilometers north of Cairns.
Photos of the headless reptile circulated on social media, prompting speculation about the cause of its demise, ranging from a confrontation with a great white shark to a brutal clash with a larger crocodile.
Professor Grahame Webb, zoologist and founder of Crocodylus Park in Darwin, dismissed the possibility of another wild animal being the culprit, stating, “The one thing you can be sure of is that someone, not something, has taken its head off.”
He added that whether the crocodile was killed before its head was removed or found already dead could only be determined through an autopsy. The Queensland Department of Environment and Science investigated the incident but was unable to identify the cause of death and decapitation due to the decomposed state of the protected species' corpse.
North Queensland crocodile photographer and conservationist Tom Hayes, who examined the carcass shortly after locals discovered it, shared his belief that a human desecrated the corpse.
He told Guardian Australia, “If it was another crocodile, it would tear it off from the least-resistant point at the spine just above the shoulders – this was obviously surgically removed from the base of the skull.”
Hayes observed cut marks resembling machete strikes on the carcass, as well as the removal of nails and other parts. He suspects the crocodile's head may have been kept as a trophy.
“Some people just genuinely hate crocodiles,” Hayes said. “Other people think that if they take out the big croc, their waterways are going to be safe. But the reality is that it just opens the door for younger, more aggressive and testosterone-fuelled males to enter.”
Killing or desecrating crocodiles is illegal, but Hayes noted that law enforcement in remote areas is lacking. He criticized the government's inconsistent approach to investigating crocodile incidents, contrasting this case with a February crocodile attack at the nearby Bloomfield River.
Amanda French from Community Representation of Crocodiles (Croc) echoed Hayes' concerns and called for stricter fines for killing crocodiles and improved strategies for managing human interactions with these animals.
Queensland wildlife officials investigate headless crocodile found at Cow Bay in state’s far north
French posited that the reptile was decapitated “in response to the recent spate of crocodile incidents in far north Queensland.” She lamented the public's bias against crocodiles, stating, “The poor crocs come off second best because of their nature and their reputation.”
Despite this unfortunate incident, Webb reassured that crocodile populations in far north Queensland are thriving and maintained that this isolated case is not concerning from a conservation standpoint. “There has been great management of crocs in north Queensland, but naturally these images tend to stir up a lot of public feelings,” he said. The maximum penalty for killing a crocodile without authorization is $27,425.