KUCHING (Nov 21): The Sarawak government is taking proactive actions to minimise crocodile-human conflicts, including the setting up of crocodile sanctuaries, crocodile free zones and a crocodile monitoring application, said Datuk Len Talif Saleh.
The Deputy Natural Resources and Urban Development Minister said the wild population of crocodiles has almost doubled for the past decade, from 13,500 in 2014 to 24,7000 last year, based on sightings reported in the rivers across the state.
Len Talif added that the river that has the most sightings of crocodiles is in Sungai Rajang, while sightings are also reported in Sungai Kayan, Sungai Sarawak, Sungai Samarahan, Sungai Sadong, Sungai Lupar, Sungai Oya, Sungai Kemena, Sungai Similaju, Sungai Suai, Sungai Niah and Sungai Sibuti.
“We are taking actions in addressing this crocodile issue and the sightings of crocodiles have now been reported in places where no such presence was reported previously,” he said during a press conference held at State Legislative Assembly (DUN) building today.
Len Talif said although 173 permits have been issued for crocodiles culling, not many culling activities have been carried out so far.
Aside from culling the crocodiles, Len Talif said another approach is to relocate the crocodiles to a sanctuary that is secluded from human activities, such as at Seduku island and an island in Kuching Wetland.
“We also want to develop an application whereby each of us can have access to the information on whether a place has a high presence of crocodiles,” he said, adding that the application may be launched next year.
Len Talif said it is crucial for the local community to report sightings of wild crocodiles with GPS coordinates through the application in order to develop a database for the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC).
“Besides, we are interested to carry out crocodile tagging for research purpose to better understand the animal’s movement and behaviour. So far, we have not tagged any crocodile yet,” he added.
SFC chief executive officer Zolkipli Mohamad Aton, meanwhile, said an average of six people are attacked by crocodiles per year.
In a press statement, SFC said a total of 193 crocodiles removal operations had been conducted between 2017 and 2022, resulting in the removal of 185 crocodiles from conflict and high-risk areas throughout Sarawak.
A total of 19 locations across the state are also designated as crocodile removal zones, including Kuching Waterfront, Sri Aman Waterfront, Miri Marina, Damai Beach Santubong, Siar and Pandan Beach in Lundu, it said.
“Active measures are and will be taken to remove any crocodiles found within these zones. There have been no crocodile attacks recorded within these zones to date,” it added.
SFC said it also plans to collaborate with International Union for Conservation of Nature-Species Survival Commission (IUCN-SSC) Crocodile Specialist Group (CSG) and experts from Australia, South Africa and other Southeast Asian countries to strengthen a comprehensive crocodile management plan.