Forest Department to give locals priority to crocodile licences

Firefighters secure the young reptile with duct tape and nylon string.

Firefighters secure the young reptile with duct tape and nylon string.

SIBU: The Sarawak Forest Department will give locals living in areas with high populations of crocodiles priority when issuing licences to hunt, kill and trade the reptiles.

Director Sapuan Ahmad said the department had identified 13 rivers in the state with high numbers of crocodiles.

“We give priority to the locals. How are they going to hunt and kill them, it is up to them. However, we will regulate with the ratio of 60:40; meaning if there are 10 crocodiles in that place, they can only catch six crocodiles,” he told reporters during the presentation of Service Excellence Awards (APC) and the launching of the Sarawak Forest Department Hotline on Thursday.

He pointed out that licensees must first ensure they have markets for their products or their catch would go to waste.

Sapuan explained that crocodile meat had a market value of RM38 per kg at present and one crocodile could reach one ton in weight.

“You can buy a proton car if you sell one crocodile, and the skins are even costlier once they are turned into bags, shoes or belts,” he said, adding it is up to the locals how much to sell the unprocessed skin for.

He said at present, there were some 20,000 crocodiles in the wild statewide, with 14 crocodiles for every kilometre in some rivers.

On the hotline, he said customers could contact the department to report cases of illegal logging or crocodile problems.

“But do not misuse it. We had actually opened the hotline earlier, and we have received a few calls. The hotline is open 24 hours; there are operators during office hours, but after office hours, we have answering machine to record the customers’ complaints, and we will review the complaints the next day,” he said.

The hotline number is 1-800-887-777.

Meanwhile, in Kampung Masaan, Siburan Sub-District near Kuching, a family had an uninvited guest on Thursday when a young crocodile crawled into the kitchen around 8pm.

The Fire and Rescue Department was alerted and despatched a team of six personnel to the house.

“The young crocodile measured about one metre in length. It took the firefighters about 10 minutes to capture the animal using the snake snare. The baby crocodile has been handed over to Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) for further action,” a department spokesperson said.