Nipper numbers fall victim to fear of crocs
PARENTS are tearing their children away from Surf Life Saving clubs in the Far North out of fear their kids could be taken by crocodiles.
Surf Life Saving Queensland has experienced a 13 per cent decrease in the amount of children aged 5-13 in its regional Nippers program, during the past 12 months.
Nearly 40 per cent of parents responding to a recent survey from SLSQ say they have chosen to take their children out of the junior lifesaving program, claiming they did not feel it was safe having their kids in the water, due to the presence of crocodiles.
Since the start of 2017, there have been 26 beach closures in the Far North, due to crocs.
SLSQ regional manager Rob Davidson said the organisation, which is about to commence recruitment of Nippers for its upcoming season, was deeply concerned about the feedback.
"We're not getting members in as juniors and training them up," he said.
"At some stage in the near future, we might be short on lifesavers to keep our beaches patrolled."
SLSQ has been pushing for state funding for croc-spotting drones, which were successfully trialled at Palm Cove late last year.
The Palaszczuk government, however, has only committed $105,000 to the organisation for a "Crocwise" education program.
Mr Davidson said drones would help surf lifesavers identify risks early, in order to get swimmers out of the water with plenty of warning.
"We can't change the number of crocodiles or their travelling (between beaches)," he said.
"All we can do is put extra observation on the water and above the water."
Port Douglas Surf Life Saving Club vice-president Michael Bolt acknowledged there was concern among parents in the region about the threat of crocodiles.
"There's still a lot of kids that come along on weekends that have a good time, a laugh, and play in the water and really enjoy themselves," Mr Bolt said.
"It's a bit like down on the Sunshine Coast or Gold Coast.
"There's been no kids down there taken by sharks or crocodiles here. But we're keeping proactive in our surveillance of beaches."
Palm Cove father-of-two, Richard Hewitson, said his family had spotted three crocodiles at the beach in the past four months.
He said his children, who were both enrolled in the Nippers program, were well aware of the dangers of crocs, however, he had faith that surf lifesavers took proper precautions to protect them during training and other events.
"The benefit of your kids doing Nippers is the life skills it teaches them," Mr Hewitson said.
"That outweighs the threat of the crocs being there."