A PUSH to make crocodile hunting the Northern Territory's next big tourism moneymaker has raised the ire of conservationists, including Steve Irwin's father Bob and experts at the zoo he founded.
The NT Government is lobbying for the legalisation of crocodile-hunting safaris, a move that Mr Irwin last week said would have outraged his late son.
"Steve would be turning over in his grave," Mr Irwin told the ABC.
"This is a real step backwards.
"Can you imagine a boatload of tourists see some big hunter shooting an animal that they came to photograph?"
He drew support from Australia Zoo ranger Barry Lyon, based in Weipa, who agreed that crocodiles played an important role in the wild.
"Crocodiles are so critical to their eco-environments," he said.
"They are an apex predator at the top of the food chain and the entire food chain relies on the balance they provide."
Mr Lyon was a ranger when crocodile hunting was outlawed in 1971 and saw how hunting led to the species becoming endangered.
"I worked with scientists during the time when it was legal to hunt crocodiles and we saw how much it affected the habitat," Mr Lyon said.
"Number got so low that we used to have trouble actually finding crocodiles to study.
"The whole food chain was put out of whack until the hunting stopped and crocodile numbers returned to healthy levels."
Mr Lyon said other negatives included a chance for black market hunting to increase and croc-odiles suffering due to inaccurate shooters.
He couldn't understand why the Northern Territory Government thought hunting safaris would increase tourist numbers.
"Once you start shooting something you will get a backlash from the public, even a boycott," he said.
"If you keep these animals at healthy numbers you allow for an ongoing income from things such as tourist sightseeing."
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