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Relocated Oz croc menaces tourist beaches

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Oz's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking a bit of stick for relocating a 3.5-metre crocodile to a north Queensland creek from where it has menaced nearby tourist beaches, the Australian reports.

The EPA trapped the beast earlier this year 1000km south of its current home, close to the Cape York community of Bamaga. The agency rather brilliantly decided to tag and dump it near Townsville at Cape Cleveland as part of the "Crocs in Space" tracking programme. The plan was to see if it would establish a new home range.

It did, and soon began to hang around Magnetic Island, just off Townsville. Cue closure of beaches and incensed tourism operators rattling legal sabres in search of compensation.

Townsville-based marine scientist Walter Starck slammed the EPA's "criminal stupidity", and thundered: "If a private citizen were to do something like that, my God, they'd be subject to horrendous fines and penalties. There's absolutely no scientific justification for it - we have hundreds of thousands of large crocodiles all across the top of Australia living in places where there are no people,"

Labor Member for Townsville Mike Reynolds described himself as "absolutely flabbergasted" at the release. He demanded that sustainability minister Andrew McNamara "ensure no crocodile was released so close to Townsville residents in the future".

The matter finally arrived at the State Parliament in Cairns, where opposition leader Lawrence Springborg yesterday probed tourism minister Desley Boyle over what he described as a "hare-brained scientific experiment". Boyle defended that the EPA had "a long-standing practice of removing crocodiles from urban areas and was sure that it would continue".

She insisted crocs were a "drawcard for tourists".

The EPA, meanwhile, yesterday hoped to recapture the rogue reptile following a scheduled satellite fix on the wandering tourist drawcard. ®

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