BUTTERWORTH: The crocodile – almost four meters long and an estimated 500kg – caught in Penang was most likely an “interstate traveller”, said Malaysian Nature Society adviser D. Kanda Kumar.
Stunned that such a huge beast was netted off the coast of Bagan Ajam on mainland Penang, he said Seberang Prai has no mangrove ecosystem vast enough for the reptile to get so big.
Kanda Kumar believes it swam over from the mangrove swamp in Perak, near the border with Penang, which spans thousands of hectares.
“It is a good sign that we still have healthy, large crocodiles along the west coast, provided this captured crocodile is wild and not a farm escapee,” he said, adding that crocodiles farmed for leather are known to escape during floods but he was not aware of any by the coastline in the region.
He said a crocodile that size needs a large amount of food, which may indicate that fish populations around Penang is still plentiful enough to attract such a large reptile.
At about 7pm on Friday, fishermen spotted the crocodile caught in a net.
It became so entangled that it could not move.
The fishermen lashed the net and the crocodile over their boat gunwale and came ashore.
Firefighters, a Civil Defence team and Wildlife Department rangers were called in to secure the crocodile.
The rangers have taken possession of the reptile and the department will decide on the next course of action.
After seeing the pictures and videos taken by the public, Universiti Sains Malaysia wildlife biodiversity and conservation expert Prof Dr Shahrul Anuar Mohd Sah confirmed that it was a Crocodylus porosus, better known as saltwater crocodile.
“The saltwater crocodile’s natural home is coastal brackish mangrove swamps.
“They can survive at sea and travel far from their habitat,” Prof Shahrul said.
“Male crocodiles can grow up to 6m. Females are smaller and rarely exceed 3m,” he added.
Outgoing state Fisheries Department director Noraisyah Abu Bakar said since being stationed in Penang from 2000 till now, she cannot recall a saltwater crocodile ever being caught here.
She heads Selangor Fisheries Department starting tomorrow.
“They need a large mangrove swamp. It is amazing that one so big swam to Penang,” she said.