Calls for a cull of crocodiles in far north Queensland after a suspected fatal attack earlier this week are ill-advised, an expert says.

Police and State Emergency Service volunteers are searching for 62-year-old holidaymaker Arthur Booker, who is believed to have fallen victim to a crocodile attack on the Endeavour River near Cooktown on Tuesday.

The incident has prompted north Queensland MP Bob Katter to call for a crocodile culling program in Cape York.

However, Australia Zoo senior wildlife ranger Barry Lyon said a crocodile cull would achieve nothing.

“It’s just not going to work, the thing with crocodiles is that you can never guarantee that you’ve hunted them all out,” Lyon said.

“There’s always going to be some survivors and some moving in from other areas to take their place.”

Lyon said crocodiles, because of their place at the top of the food chain, were an essential part of river and lagoon eco systems in the north.

He said extensive hunting of the large reptiles following World War II had a massive impact on river systems in the area.

“The eco systems were so out of balance that catfish were hugely abundant, we’d go fishing and you might catch 20 catfish for one barra,” Lyon said.

“Since then the crocodiles have recovered and now you hardly ever catch a catfish – that’s a good example of how they keep the whole system healthy.”

He said the presumed attack on Booker was a “terrible tragedy”, and it was up to the Environmental Protection Agency to decide whether to trap or kill the crocodile believed to be responsible.

Crocodiles were a part of life in the north, and people who chose to camp or fish in croc infested waters needed to be on guard, Lyon said.

“Stay out of the water, camp well away from the water, go fishing in a good sturdy high sided boat,” he said.

He also warned campers against throwing food scraps or fish carcasses into the river.

“That attracts crocs, that’s like fast food for them, and it puts people in a very dangerous situation.”

Queensland Environment Minister Andrew McNamara also rejected the calls to cull crocodiles, saying they were misplaced.

McNamara said the Endeavour River did not have a high density of crocodiles.

“The EPA has recently done an assessment of crocodile numbers on the eastern side of the Cape and have found they have only slightly increased in a number of years,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

“It has one crocodile every two kilometres – it’s not particularly a high density area.

“Calls to cull crocodiles are misplaced and insensitive in the extreme.”