The Giant Crocodile

The Giant Crocodile

Posted by James Whiteman on 7th Feb 2013

Here's a guest blog from Natasha at The Great Orangutan Project...

"Word reached us at Matang that a crocodile had been caught in an area roughly 90 minutes away from the centre. Though no known human had been eaten or injured, it had made a meal out of a VIP's pet dog, and was therefore no longer welcome in the river next to his house. A humane trap had been set, and the crocodile caught within it successfully. The colloquial name, 'salt water crocodile' is misleading as this species dwells and hunts in fresh-water rivers. However, is able to travel through areas of high salinity due to special pores it possesses, leading to its name, and sadly leading to conflict with humans, as we are rather keen on fresh-water too.

Unfortunately, crocodiles are not welcome inhabitants of their natural territories should that area overlap with human settlements. It's not surprising really – consider (I am a Brit) the British people's aversion to pigeons. The pigeon's only crime is to poop in places that we would rather not see it. And fly very close to our faces. For these acts, pigeons are rather mercilessly persecuted. It sounds dramatic, but it is sadly true. Now consider if the pigeon was 4 metres long, had dozens of re-growing sharp teeth and would eat us. It is not likely that we would stand for it existing in our country, and would certainly not allow it to inhabit our back gardens.

The rumour was that this dog-eating crocodile was 15 feet long – 15 feet! 'No way' we exclaimed, with arrogant surety, 'the guys always exaggerate, the crocs are never that big'. We were guessing that the new arrival would be perhaps 6-8 feet. Then the truck arrived. Upon it was a crocodile that was perhaps not quite 15 feet long; 13 feet maybe. I have never seen such a large crocodile, though of course they can grow this big, and bigger. They simply continue to grow with age as long as they remain in good health, so we guessed we were looking at an old individual. With salt water crocodiles living up to 70-80 years, this one had to be older than 50.

It was rather obvious that the crocodile enclosure at Matang was not going to be suitable housing for this animal, not only because it would probably knock down the wall of the enclosure with one swipe of its 2-feet-wide, incredibly muscular tail, but also because it would no doubt treat the resident, 2 metre crocs as breakfast. Therefore, after numerous phone calls it was arranged to move this animal to one of the crocodile farms in Sarawak. Estuarine crocodiles are a protected species in Sarawak, therefore it is illegal to harm or kill them. When problem crocodiles are caught from the wild and transferred to farms, they are kept to be used as breeding stock.

We are hoping that the enclosure at its new residence was secure enough to house this guy in the long term. It was a shame we could not keep it, but we have to be realistic as to our logistical capabilities. For sure, it would have been a huge hit with tourists. However, after watching the local team here transferring and working with crocodiles on numerous occasions, I can't help but feel Matang may have been continuing with one less keeper had this animal been handled here!"


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