Croc might have been a fish, say investigators
FOLLOWING recent reports of crocodiles sighted in the Burnett River near Bundaberg, wildlife officers have spent more than five hours patrolling the area and believe the sightings were a case of mistaken identity.
Department of Environment and Science Conservation and Biodiversity Operations Acting Director Frank Mills said at this stage of the investigation, wildlife officers understood it was very likely the animals reported were large lungfish.
"DES staff in the area carried out a spotlight patrol last night and found no signs of crocodiles in the Sandy Hook area where the animals were reportedly seen last week," Mr Mills said.
"After discussions with locals and our own observations, it is most likely the observers saw either one or a number of very large lungfish, which are native to the area and can grow up to two metres in length.
"The behaviour described to us of the animals seen in the area is inconsistent with typical crocodile behaviour, however, it does match up with lungfish behaviour.
"Our observations indicate a healthy lungfish population in the area, which is good news in terms of conservation."
The Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri) is a native species of fish that lives in south-east Queensland, most likely to be found in the Wide Bay Burnett region.
The species is called a lungfish because of its ability to breathe air using a 'lung', although they also have five sets of gills.
The lungfish is the only Australian survivor of a species of fish that has been around since the time of the dinosaurs and relies on healthy wetlands to survive.
Lungfish are protected under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Queensland Fisheries Act 1994.
Mr Mills said wildlife officers would return to the area where the animals were reported today and tonight for further patrols.
"DES takes all crocodile sighting reports seriously," he said.
"Although we didn't find any indication of recent croc activity last night, we will continue to search the area thoroughly as part of our investigation.
"We encourage all members of the public to report crocodile sightings to the department by calling 1300 130 372."
Under the current Queensland Crocodile Management Plan, any crocodiles found south of the Boyne River in Gladstone are considered to be in Zone F - Atypical habitat and are automatically targeted for removal.
Although waterways in the Wide Bay Burnett region are not considered to be part of croc country, people are urged to be crocwise in areas where crocodiles have been recently reported. In particular:
- Obey all warning signs - they are there to keep you safe
- Be aware crocs also swim in the ocean and be extra cautious around water at night
- Stay well away from croc traps - that includes fishing and boating
- The smaller the vessel the greater the risk, so avoid using canoes and kayaks
- Stand back from the water's edge when fishing and don't wade in to retrieve a lure
- Camp at least 50 metres from the edge of the water
- Never leave food, fish scraps or bait near water, camp site or boat ramp
- Never provoke, harass or feed crocs
- Always supervise children near the water and keep pets on a lead
- Remember, you are responsible for your own safety in croc country
- Report all croc sightings to DES by calling 1300 130 372.
Further information on being CrocWise is available here.