A crocodile living in a creek in northwestern Australia is at the centre of a battle between authorities who want to remove it, and locals who have grown fond of the massive reptile.
Officials in the state of Queensland have set a trap to catch the saltwater croc, who residents have nicknamed Howard, saying he is a danger to humans.
One schoolboy is so distraught by the decision he has written a letter to state environment minister Leeanne Enoch begging her to let the creature stay.
“I lived at Bamboo Creek Road for five years and I loved watching Howard sunbake and seeing him from the bridge every afternoon,” wrote 10-year-old Elroy Woods, from the small locality of Miallo.
David White, who owns a local crocodile-cruise business, said there had been 300 emails sent in support of keeping the four-metre-long animal where it is, and just one complaint.
Even Queensland’s Australia Zoo, run by the widow of late celebrity “crocodile hunter” Steve Irwin, has pitched in.
The zoo said in a tweet it was “so proud” of Elroy’s efforts to protect Howard, adding that predators at the top of the food chain were “the most important in any ecosystem”.
However the government has indicated the trap will remain in place, saying the crocodile will not be destroyed when caught.
We’re so proud of Elroy for wanting to protect Howard. Saltwater crocodiles are classed as vulnerable in Queensland and apex predators are the most important in any ecosystem. https://t.co/LHnFYh8222— Australia Zoo (@AustraliaZoo) September 5, 2019
A balance “between the need to protect public safety, and the need to conserve estuarine crocodile populations in the wild” must be found, said an environment department official.