Melaleuca Media
Pub crocodile case hits court

Is a pub a suitably educational or natural setting for five metre crocodile? A version of this 2001 tale graced the front page of the Courier-Mail.

A Townsville magistrate yesterday set a trial date in October for deciding whether a pub, nightclub and backpackers resort on Magnetic Island is a suitably educational setting or natural enough habitat for a five metre crocodile.

Picnic Bay Hotel owner Mr Bill Carnell is appealing a Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service refusal to grant him a permit to install crocodile Rin Tin Tin as a permanent resident at the backpacker resort.

Mr Carnell has a nearly completely constructed “absolutely fantastic crocodile enclosure” at the hotel which he says cost $80,000.

“They gave me permission to build the enclosure and permission to keep the crocodile,” he said. “But they have refused me permission to transfer the crocodile to where I want to keep it.

“Now it looks like I have another two months of the cage sitting there with a plastic croc in it.”

The QPWS case is that Mr Carnell went ahead and built the enclosure without any permits and despite being told of requirements for some educational purpose and ecological context for wildlife exhibits.

It alleges that the enclosure is sited and constructed so that Rin Tin Tim would have the full enjoyment of loud music and vibration from an adjacent live entertainment area.

Mr Carnell said that it was Magnetic Island conservationists who agitated for the refusal of his permit, a charge “willingly accepted” by North Queensland Conservation Council Coordinator and island resident Mr Jeremy Tager.

“It is all part of the sitcom that is Magnetic Island,” Mr Tager said. “There are all sorts of reasons under the Act not to grant a permit to keep a crocodile at the pub. It’s a drinking establishment – where’s the educational purpose in that?”

Mr Carnell, who claims 20 years experience as a Northern Territory crocodile farmer, said the industry kept 60,000 crocodiles in captivity for “steak and handbags”.

“I go and put one crocodile into a resort and the unthinkable has happened,” he said. “I’ve been to enormous expense to build this thing - it is not like I am fitting out an old Queensland pub with a bit of chook-wire.”

Rin Tin Tin is a male salt-water crocodile who has become sterile and is now not much good to a crocodile farm in the Cairns area.

One likely result of the Rin Tin Tin case will be new and much more specific guidelines for wildlife displays, currently being drafted by the QPWS.

Magistrate Mr Laurie Verra SM yesterday called for further affadavit evidence from both sides and set a start date for the hearing of 17 October. There was no indication that Rin Tin Tin would be tendered in court as exhibit 1.