Why the killed 'apex' crocodile was so significant
THE crocodile's body was discovered by authorities on September 21 about 1.15pm some 35kms upstream from Rockhampton and was taken to Koorana Crocodile Farm for examination.
Police prosecutor Jess King tendered documents to the court by Department of Environment and Science's manager of northern wildlife operations Matthew Brien and wildlife officer Robby McLeod.
Luke Stephen Orchard today pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully taking a protected animal after admitting to shooting a 5.26m male crocodile, estimated to be 80-100 years old, in September last year.
The reports outlined that the department had not received any reports in the past seven years of crocodiles killing cattle along the Fitzroy River.
The court heard the department did receive a sighting of a 5m long crocodile in the section of the river where Belmont Research Station is located, but the report came from people across the river who were doing mitigation work to stop cattle getting down to the river near the crocodiles and not from anyone working at Belmont.
Ms King said the department did an immediate search of the area and located a crocodile, now believed to be the same one shot by Orchard, and it was deemed a "shy and elusive animal", "wary of humans".
"(Mr Brien's report stated) a crocodile of that length is rare," she said. The average size of a crocodile is 4-4.5 metres
"It reached that size because is has been weary and stayed away from humans."
Ms King said the crocodile was about 80-100 years old, surviving years of unregulated hunting and there was a reasonable assumption the crocodile was the largest, and therefore the apex predator, in the 55km catchment between Yaamba and the barrage.
"Only 1% of hatchlings survive until adulthood," she read from the report.
The reports also eluded to the fact the crocodile had significant value to the Darumbal people.