Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

October 31st 2008
Wighty Houdini croc captured

W. Houdini - no more for Magnetic 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 Swinburn with the cause of his unemployment

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.

EPA's Wildlife Ranger croc capture crew, (from left) Greg O'Niel, Shane Hunter, Nathan Winn, Adam Northan, Chris Pacey and Clayton Enoch

Photos and story copyright George Hirst, Magnetictimes 2008

To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below

Wighty Houdini croc captured
Nigel Grier
October 31st 2008
wow, and to think we've waded across Retreat Ck & Nedlee's a hundred times.

Awesome story and photos.
suzanne norman
October 31st 2008
Take the crocodile back to where they first captured him. It isn't exactly a humane thing to do to relocate an animal for OUR! pleasure. Why do we have to justify this sort of happening because of human needs. Perhaps those who thought up the whole idea (in the beginning) should look at what motives they had initially for performing a wild and woolly action. Because we are humans, does not make us extremely clever when it comes to wild life management. Has anyone ever thought that possibly the crocodile had some thoughts of his own and really didn't see the point of being out of its own area or comfort zone. Why do we think we can outperform Mother Nature? The Earth has been around for far longer than any of us can imagine in our delicate wee brains. Give thought and credence to what Mother Nature and our lovely planet Earth have to say. Perhaps even LISTEN to what we are being told by them????????? Please don't put the poor croc in prison. Let it be FREE!
October 31st 2008
I agree with Suzanne's comments - what is the point in NOT taking the croc back home? We know what happens to many of the animals in the croc farms, and zoos are not quote the open environment of the far north.
Kelly Grech
October 31st 2008
I believe the croc was originally removed from an area where he was endangering humans, although I do agree, take the croc back to his home. Why does he have to live in captivity for the rest of his life now? That is a great shame. However, obviously they did attempt to let this animal be free and look what happened. Now there's been a great cost to businesses here who suffered from the result of trying to relocate a dangerous animal instead of keeping it in captivity. Frankly I don't think the businesses have a leg to stand on. The EPA's position is that the threat of a crocodile being in our waters always exists, simply due to our location. Therefore, it is a risk the watersport businesses take on, in operating their business here. What if there is a dangerous shark in the waters next week? Who will they sue about that? At least the crocodile was removed humanely. If a big shark came into horseshoe bay it would be cruelly maimed by shark bouys, wouldn't it? Sadly, it all comes down to who is ahead in the food chain, and for the time being, humans will continue to rule the island and its surrounding waters. Such is life!
October 31st 2008
l think its a bit late they sat and look at it the other day why dident they get it then??

October 31st 2008
We don't go around plugging volcano's so as to protect that stupid, supposedly sentient, species called homo-sapiens from dancing on the lip do we?
Or are we so imbued with that (paraphrased) arcane biblical notion of all creatures (and seemingly some of our own if the slave trade was/is any guide) are there for us to do our will?
Granted, the relocation may have a been folly but perhaps the essence of Suzanne Norman's observation merits far closer attention.
November 1st 2008
Great reporting and photos, George and Penn.
Wasn't a croc spotted a year or two ago off Picnic Bay boat ramp?
I thought the north Qld coast was natural croc habitat, and if that's the case, something we have to live with (along with death adders, tiger sharks and cane toads). I hate the thought of Whoudini going to a croc farm and becoming a handbag, or even just going to a croc farm.
Much as I sympathise with tourist operators losing money lately, has that really been due to the croc, or has the recession in the US and UK rattled people enough to keep their hands firmly in their pockets?
November 1st 2008
Congratulations Geo & Pen. Fantastic photos. Deserve to be published in a national and/or international paper. Send the croc home, it was another, bigger beast that was causing problems in Bamaga.
David J
November 2nd 2008
I note the contributions above which among several points, include various concerns for the future welfare of this animal. Having been involved in several University research projects involving experiments on human behavior, to obtain research approval there were several significant hurdles requiring adherence to safety, communication and consent. These important aspects were reviewed by a number of independent parties to ensure best practice, prior to the project receiving approval. I have also worked for government where such hurdles were (and still are) regularly ignored or leapt over in the name of science. Perhaps an EPA spokesman could shed light on these elements of the project? As an example, what perceived dangers to the researchers, the public and government employees were considered? Were they considered likely, including the perhaps unnecessary dangers that these daring and fearless EPA men were eventually exposed too? Was the safety of the public considered, including what actions to take should the project turn
November 2nd 2008

My understanding, following a visit to the croc farm on the way to Cairns is that although "problem crocs" such as Whitey are indeed relocated to Croc farms they remain protected and it is actually illegal to farm them for their skin or meat. In fact they eat and fornicate the rest of their life away with very little stress. Sounds like a great life hey YT?
November 3rd 2008
I haven't been to a croc farm but I gather that fertile female crocs are always welcome whereas males (like this one) aren't really needed if the farm already has an in-house sire. So if the croc isn't carrying a handbag it might be made into one (which might not be such a great prospect, hey george?).
November 8th 2008
Yep feel sorry ?? for the croc,BUT now we can rebook our holiday for Alma Bay,regardless of what nature happys say wasnt going to take the grand kids swiming with him around,feel sorry fot the dive guy,nice bloke usually stop at Appian house behind him,see you in Jun 2009
Natalie H.
February 27th 2012
Bugger the crocs, think some of you people may need 2 build yourselves a bridge 2 get the f@%* over it. Good job guys!

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