Australian officials ban hunting saltwater crocodiles

The government on Thursday rejected a plan to allow trophy hunting of saltwater crocodiles in northern Australia despite two recent fatal attacks on divers.

Croc numbers have exploded in Australia since a 1971 federal ban on hunting the creatures.

Some northern Australians have called for a lifting of the ban after two men were killed by crocs in a span of five days last month while snorkeling in Northern Territory.

The Northern Territory government proposed allowing trophy hunters to annually shoot 25 crocodiles that are longer than 4 meters (13 feet) as a means of controlling their numbers and earning income for Aborigines who own much of the giant reptiles' habitat in the sparsely populated northern province.

The proposal was backed by international croc experts but opposed by animal welfare organizations who regarded it as cruel.

Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell announced Thursday he had ruled out allowing trophy hunting.

Campbell said it would have been difficult to achieve humane recreational hunting.

"The problem is, if you've got an amateur shooter traveling from overseas to Australia shooting a crocodile from 50 yards, they're very hard to shoot in a humane way where you can guarantee a kill with a first shot," he told Nine Network television, reports the AP. I.L.

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