In particular landholders were given the opportunity to harvest and sell crocodile eggs and crocodiles each year, under a strict quota system, so it was in their interests to preserve suitable crocodile habitat on farms and in aboriginal reserves. In the Northern Territory 20,000 eggs are sold each year for about $40 each and 600 crocodiles are harvested and sold for about $500 each.
Grahame Webb and the Northern Territory Government have lobbied hard for many years to have the program expanded to include big game hunters from Europe and the United States who would pay $10,000 to shoot a single crocodile. But these rich tourists will only spend the money if they can take the souvenir - the crocodile head and skin - back with them.
The Northern Territory Government asked the Federal Government for approval to export 25 skins from safari-hunted crocodile each year and in this way further increase the commercial value of crocodiles to landholders. Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell has repeatedly rejected the request on the advice of Steve Irwin. Irwin passionately opposed trade in products from wild animals. He only believed in shooting crocodiles with cameras.
This somewhat romantic approach to wildlife conservation is increasingly opposed by specialists in the field who claim the best chance of saving endangered species across the world is by legalising and regulating trade in accordance with strict quota systems.
Steve Irwin will live on as an Australian icon and his documentaries on wild animals will continue to amaze and amuse us. His up-close and personal approach got us more interested than ever in saving the world’s unique fauna. But pictures can not save animal species from extinction. The survival of tigers in India, freshwater dolphins in China and elephants in Africa may require a less personal and more pragmatic approach to wildlife conservation.
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