Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Killer Crocodiles - How One Man Campaigned For Their Survival

Crocodiles have become big business - for the tourist industry and for handbag manufacturers.
These days you can fly into Northern Australia and be treated to a variety of nerve-tingling thrills. On the Adelaide River, just south of Darwin in the Northern Territory, several operators offer close encounters with the hungry monsters.
They dangle pieces of meat off the side of open boats and up leap the crocs to enjoy their lunch, their massive snapping jaws only inches away from the tourists.

At Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin you can enter the Cage of Death, a transparent acrylic box which is lowered into the enclosures of three giant crocodiles. If they are in a bad mood, watch out!
These days thousands of the saurians are farmed for their prized skins and for their meat too. Australia has awakened to the fact that these primeval creatures are not a curse but an asset.
That's quite a change from the time when I lived in Australia's wild north and became friendly with a pioneer in crocodile farming.
Ron Pawlowski and his wife Kris emigrated to Australia from their native Poland after suffering hardship and hair-raising adventures during World War Two. Good training for the tough life in the Outback.
As a new and penniless immigrant, Ron did everything from gold-prospecting to kangaroo hunting. Then the couple based themselves in a remote corner of the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland and became expert crocodile-hunters.
In 1957 Kris, a first-class shot, killed a monster, 28 feet four inches long, the biggest croc ever bagged in Australia. All manner of far-fetched stories have circulated about monster crocodiles, but in this case there appears to be no doubt about the facts.
Kris's feat made her famous and won her a mention in the Guinness Book of Records. She noted: "I would never shoot one like that again. It was such a magnificent specimen."
Altogether the Pawlowskis shot up to 10,000 salt-water crocodiles, which they sold for their skins. They became legends - and then conservationists, as they realised that the species was endangered.
They started campaigning for the protection of the crocodiles and for the establishment of farms where the reptiles could be raised for their prized skins.
But they were before their time and could get no support from the politicians ruling the state of Queensland. They were forced to give up their own croc farm.
Ron continued his campaign, even giving evidence before members of Australia's parliament. Finally, the national government ordered both salt-water and fresh-water species to be protected
Numbers have swollen dramatically. Crocodile-rearing farms have been established all over the north and are reaping big profits.
If you visit Australia and get to see one of the croc farms, remember the man who helped to save the saurian, Ron Pawlowski, an indomitable survivor of the horrors of war who built a new life in a new land - and made a difference.
Today he lives peacefully in the resort of Cairns, handy for those who want to visit the Barrier Reef.
Journalist and author David Baird wrote a book about his experiences in northern Australia, title The Incredible Gulf. He has worked for publications all over the world. He is now based in Spain. His book Between Two Fires - Guerrilla War in the Spanish sierras has won praise from leading historians. His latest books are works of fiction, Typhoon Season, a nerve-tingling thriller set in Hong Kong, and Don't Miss The Fiesta!, passion and adventure played out in southern Spain. More information at the Maroma Press website, http://maromapress.wordpress.com/

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