Queensland, Australia – A headless crocodile discovered on a beach has puzzled authorities and ignited online speculation of an interspecies conflict, although experts believe a human is responsible for the animal’s death.
On April 12, the decapitated body of the four-meter-long saltwater crocodile was found near Cow Bay, close to the Daintree Rainforest and around 120 km north of Cairns. Photos of the headless reptile went viral on social media, with people theorizing its death could have been the result of a confrontation with a great white shark or a larger crocodile.
Theories suggest that the headless crocodile was killed by another crocodile and its head was taken by a trophy hunter. Click to read more. https://t.co/RWabyaTfUo
— Nature World News (@NatureWorldNews) April 19, 2023
Nonetheless, Prof Grahame Webb, a zoologist and founder of Crocodylus Park in Darwin, believes it is highly improbable that another wild animal caused the crocodile’s death. Instead, he thinks a human is responsible.
“The one thing you can be sure of is that someone not something has taken its head off,” he stated.
“Whether they killed it and then decided to take its head, or whether they found it already dead can only be determined through an autopsy.”
The Queensland Department of Environment and Science conducted an investigation but could not identify the cause of the crocodile’s death and decapitation due to the decomposed state of the body.
Tom Hayes, a north Queensland crocodile photographer and conservationist, believes it was obvious that a human had desecrated the carcass.
“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,” he told Guardian Australia.
Hayes observed cut marks on the carcass, which appeared to have been made by a machete, and also noted that the animal’s nails and other parts had been torn off. He suspects that the crocodile’s head was taken as a trophy.
“Some people just genuinely hate crocodiles,” he said. “Other people think that if they take out the big croc that 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.”
#Crocodile #Nature Discovery of Headless Crocodile Sparks Disturbing Theory: Tom Hayes, a local photographer focusing on crocodiles, believes the decapitated animal’s head was taken by a trophy hunter. https://t.co/RyN26ESGxX
— Upasaka Bala (@upasakabala) April 18, 2023
Killing or desecrating crocodiles is illegal, but Hayes claims that enforcement in remote areas is insufficient. He criticized the government for not investigating this incident as thoroughly as a recent crocodile attack at the nearby Bloomfield River.
Amanda French from Community Representation of Crocodiles (Croc) concurred, advocating for stricter fines for killing crocodiles and improved strategies for managing human interaction with crocodile habitats.
French theorized that the crocodile had been decapitated “in response to the recent spate of crocodile incidents in far north Queensland”.
“The poor crocs come off second best because of their nature and their reputation,” she said. “Say if they found a koala or a sea turtle, I bet the reaction would have been different.”
However, Webb said that crocodile populations in far north Queensland are healthy, and he does not see this isolated case as a conservation concern.
“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.