Sunday Territorian 5 Nov 2017
Sunday Territorian; NewspaperNT
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Nationwide News Pty. Limited
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 5 2017 NEWS FEATURE FRONTIER 19 V1 - NTNE01Z01MA him. Im right-handed so it doesnt affect me much I can only count to eight now though, he jokes. And lets just say work practices improved pretty dramatically after that. His injury, unsurprisingly, coincided with the moment cable-ties were brought in to close the crocs mouths, rather than ropes. With the ropes, we used to have to get up close to wrap them around, Tommy says. Now we dont need to have our hands anywhere near them to even do it up. The croc writhes against the side of the boat as it is slowly winched out of the water. A third zip-tie is tightened around its deadly jaws, and Tommy quickly puts duct tape around the rest of the snout and head, taping a piece of old carpet tight against its eyes. Theyre like most animals when they cant see whats going on, they calm down, he says. As the longest-serving member of the crocodile management team, its not surprising Tommy is wellrenowned he commands a healthy respect from his colleagues, just as he has for his crocs. People from around the country come to him to learn how to deal with problem crocodiles. Tommy works with indigenous communities and has even travelled to Timor and the Solomon Islands. And why wouldnt he travel crocs themselves have been found hundreds of kilometres out to sea and are understood to move around between countries north of the Tropic of Capricorn. The respect his team have for him is clear from how they speak about him. Growing up in Katherine as a kid I used to have pictures of Tommy from the newspaper on my bedroom wall, Chris says. Kids down south had footballers, but I had Tommy. Theres no one who knows the job better than Tom. Taped up, the crocodile is slowly towed around the outside of the boat and pulled up over the ramp and hauled inside the vessel. Now on the floor, the reptiles size is only made more obvious, and standing room becomes a little more difficult. Chris puts pressure on its head while Tommy kneels and ties its back feet together. Once they realise theyre overwhelmed, they dont try anything, he says. The croc is the second of three the pair will catch on this trip on the harbour. Already this year the Parks and Wildlife NT team have captured 300 salties, of all different sizes. Some people ask why we dont leave the small ones, but the small ones will only grow into big ones, Tommy explains. The capture and removal of so many crocodiles is obviously saving lives of Territorians, but Tommy doesnt think like that. All were doing is reducing the numbers and reducing the risk, he says, downplaying his important role. If we didnt have the crocodile management system we have, the chances of more fatalities would be extremely high. And Tommy knows about fatalities hes the one who is normally tasked with trapping, killing and performing the autopsies of crocs that have attacked humans. Finding the remains of children is, emotionally, the hardest, he says, but doesnt elaborate much further. But, these are the tough sides to the job. The aquamarine Timor Sea races by underneath as the boat speeds along and it would be hard to imagine a more exhilarating day at the office. With the croc now trapped and tied inside the boat, ranger Chris climbs back over onto the croc cage, rebaits it with more meat, and sets the trap again ready to catch another potentially monstrous killer. And once hes back in the boat, Tommy hits the ignition and the pair race towards the next cage, ready to start the whole process again both filled with a healthy fear of one of Australias most dangerous predators, keeping them alert day in, day out. Ranger Tommy Nichols measuring a crocodile The scales of a croc caught by NT Parks and Wildlife rangers Rangers Tommy Nichols and Robert Risk show NT bureaucrats around a croc trap
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