Mystery behind decapitated crocodiles in Australia with more and more bodies found

Mystery behind decapitated crocodiles in Australia with more and more bodies found

Animal campaigners have raised the alarm after a number of crocodiles were found dead with their heads chopped off.

Rangers fear the decapitations are becoming a growing problem in the Australian state of Queensland after six of the animals were found with gunshot wounds over the past two months. Some of the carcasses were found sans head, according to the Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation.

Speaking with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, one local fisherman in Normanton, which sits along the Gulf of Carpentaria coastline, said he had found 14 dead crocs in the area. In May, a 40-year-old female crocodile dubbed Lizzie after the late Queen, was found headless on the banks of the Dairntree River. Similar scenes emerged in Cow Bay, around 75 miles north of Cairns, where another croc was beheaded in April.

The population of saltwater crocodiles in Queensland has hit between 20,000 to 30,000 after hunting of the previously-endangered species of was banned in the late 1970s. The state currently lists the saltwater crocodile as vulnerable, with those found guilty of deliberately harming or killing the animal punishable with a $32,243 fine (£16,484).

Indigenous campaigners have also raised concerns over how killing the dominant creatures, which are top of the food chain in a number of regions, can seriously disrupt the ecosystem.

A CLAC spokesman told The Guardian: “The current situation in the Norman River is that there’s a large population of crocodiles and they’re maybe getting back to the population levels that were there before the hunting and skin trade. But they’re not doing anyone any harm.”

The representative added that despite the ban, there is still a market for crocodile parts, including their heads. Crocodile heads have a record of use in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is put in a soup and believed to treat lung illnesses and improve memory. Wildlife officers are arriving in Normanton tomorrow to kick off an investigation.

Fisherman Dylan Leschke said he suspects “trigger-happy” hunters took out the creatures while trying to go undetected. “They’re not a threat to our society,” he said. “These people are just getting trigger-happy and trying to shoot them under the radar.”

According to experts, one of the main risks of removing larger dominant crocs is that this leaves a space for the younger creatures, which are more aggressive, to move in and battle it out to take control of the area.

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This article by Ryan Fahey was first published by The Mirror on 2 September 2023. Lead Image: Crocodile heads are still used in some traditional medicine practices, which may explain the sudden surge in decapitations (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto).

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