Sabah Wildlife Dept hard-pressed to cope with increasing human-croc conflict


KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) is hard-pressed to manage human-crocodile conflict as it is overstretched, says its director Augustine Tuuga.

With just a handful of experts in the field and crocodile sightings as well as attacks on the rise, he said they could only handle a few at a time.

There are only six teams available to cover all 73,631sq km of Sabah, he said when contacted on Monday (June 24).

ALSO READ: Boy, 9, killed in Sandakan croc attack

He said a task force, headed by the Sabah Home Affairs and Research Office under the Chief Minister’s Department, had been formed to oversee the mitigation of human-crocodile conflict.

“This is a state-level group set up to proactively handle crocodile attack issues,” he said.

However, he said, the speed of operations remains slow even with "extra hands" from district offices, the police, Fire and Rescue Department and the Malaysia Civil Defence Force.

“The crocodile hunting process can be quite slow because it involves moving from river to river, then district to district, with one team assigned to each exercise. And we have over 70 rivers across Sabah,” he said.

ALSO READ: Papar folk warned of crocs in the river

Sabah is also home to Malaysia’s second longest river after Sarawak's Rajang River, the Kinabatangan River, which stretches approximately 560km from the Crocker Range in the interior to the Sulu Sea, passing through a variety of ecosystems and supporting diverse wildlife along its course.

Between Jan 4 and May 29, a total of 77 operations were conducted, resulting in the capture and shooting of 109 crocodiles.

“During the same period, there were three fatalities and three injuries because of crocodile attacks,” he said.

On Sunday (June 23), a nine-year-old boy was the latest victim of a reptile attack at a river in Kampung Lembaga Batu 8, along Datuk Tay Road in Sandakan.

ALSO READ: Second 3m long crocodile captured in Kota Kinabalu’s public park

He was swimming at about noon when the crocodile attacked, and his body was found three hours later some 500m from where he was last seen.

Tuuga said while the department monitors crocodile attacks and sightings, it does not depend solely on reports.

“We conduct hunting operations in rivers where crocodiles are present within village areas. People are always advised to exercise caution when engaging in river activities. We also place signboards in dangerous areas.

“Typically, picnic areas do not have crocodiles,” he said.

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