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‘Croc-spotting’ drones to be trialled by lifesavers

Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) will trial drone technology, provided by Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver, on North Queensland beaches this week to monitor and log crocodiles, in a move which could save lives and help minimise attacks according to the state’s peak aquatic authority.

SLSQ has called for increased funding this state election to support a one-year pilot program to fly drones across North Queensland, with an initial four-day trial set to commence this week.

Drones are already used across Australia to track other marine creatures, including whales and sharks, and SLSQ chief operating officer George Hill ESM is hoping that a successful trial could see the technology adapted for crocodiles in the state’s north.

“Crocodiles have been, and continue to be, a big issue for residents, tourists and our own members across North Queensland and we want to be working with all stakeholders to increase and improve efforts to protect beachgoers,” he said.

“We’ve extensively trialled drones in the past from a search and rescue perspective, but we’ve never actively tested them when it comes to crocodile management.

“This trial will help us determine the suitability of using drones to identify, monitor, and track crocodiles both on the land and in the water.

“The potential benefits of this technology are huge and, if successful, there’s no doubt in my mind that drones can help our surf lifesavers and lifeguards keep beachgoers safe across North Queensland and ultimately reduce crocodile attacks and other incidents,” Mr Hill said.

The trials will be run across four days this week and include both Four Mile Beach and Palm Cove, amongst other areas. It comes after SLSQ’s 2017 Coast Safe Report highlighted 15 crocodile attacks across Queensland in the past 10 years, including six fatalities.

Mr Hill said more could, and should, be done to protect North Queensland communities, but acknowledged many initiatives would require additional funding to be rolled out.

“We want to be doing everything we can to protect North Queensland communities, but that obviously requires additional government funding and assistance,” he said.

“We’ve asked for an additional $150,000 in funding to roll out a one-year pilot program to fly drones across North Queensland, and a further $105,000 to increase our involvement in the Crocwise program,” he said.

In addition, Mr Hill also renewed calls to relocate crocodiles from patrolled beaches and public access waterways across North Queensland, saying it would go a long way towards increasing public safety.

“We don’t want to see crocodiles harmed, but our priority as an organisation needs to be protecting beachgoers, swimmers, and our own members, and we absolutely support their removal from any waterway if there’s a chance they could be a risk to public safety,” he said.

“If they’re particularly large or aggressive crocodiles, then it’s even more important.

“Sightings and attacks have had long-term, negative impacts on our membership figures up north, so it’s obviously in our best interest to be doing everything we can to help manage this issue as well.”

Mr Hill also said that SLSQ would continue to work closely with Queensland Parks and Wildlife on-the-ground to minimise the chances of further crocodile attacks.

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