THE grandmother of a girl eaten by a crocodile was thrown out of an Ipswich shopping centre - after she objected to a live saltwater croc display.
Lynda Bennett said she was angered by the croc handler's remark that the prehistoric reptiles were “unlikely to harm humans if left alone”.
Her loud objections to the “Cool Companions” hands-on croc display at the Booval Fair shopping centre on Tuesday attracted negative comments from bystanders - many of them the parents of young children who were upset by Ms Bennett's outburst.
Ms Bennett also attracted the attention of security guards, who showed her the door and politely asked her not to come back soon.
If only they understood the pain hidden behind Ms Bennett's anger.
Her late grand-daughter, Briony Goodsell, was only 12 years old when a four-metre saltwater croc grabbed her from a swimming hole near Darwin on the afternoon of March 15 this year.
Ms Bennett has devoted much of her time since the tragedy to raising awareness of the risk saltwater crocs pose to humans.
“I really feel like a twit for what happened, but when you are trying to get the message out that crocodiles are killers it was worth it,” Ms Bennett said.
“Yes I flipped, but crocodiles are top-order predators, killers, and they won't shy away. They will kill.
“This guy was holding a three or four year old croc - it was about 1.5m to 2m long - with its mouth taped shut and basically telling these kids it was cute and cuddly.
“I think that it is wrong to misinform children like that.”
Northern Territory croc campaigner Michaela Johnston said putting a reptile of that size on display at a shopping centre was irresponsible and dangerous.
Ms Johnston, who is the director of the Gulpulul Marauwu Aboriginal Corporation and the partner of experienced croc hunter Mick “Crocodile Mick” Pitman, said a sedated croc that has its mouth taped shut can still injure a person.
“If a croc that big whips its tail around it could easily break a child's leg,” Ms Johnston said.
“The Government should have a tighter rein on this sort of thing because crocodiles should not be carted around to shopping centres.
“The RSPCA should also get involved.”
Booval Fair's centre management yesterday released a statement backing the Cool Companions display.
“Booval Fair's Reptile Display aims to educate and provide children with the opportunity to get up close with animals in a controlled environment,” a spokeswoman from the shopping centre said.
“Under no circumstance would Booval Fair advise or encourage anyone to approach these reptiles in the wild, out of a controlled environment.”
Ms Bennett and other members of Briony's family are working with the Northern Territory and Federal Government to find a solution to the increase in the crocodile population across the top end of Australia.
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