16-foot giant croc the latest casualty in human-crocodile conflict in Samarahan

Idris (fourth left) with the 16-foot reptile captured in Samarahan River by SCH team on Mar 10, 2021.

By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Mar 11: The over 16-foot giant crocodile culled by Samarahan Crocodile Hunters (SCH) has been the biggest of all the 11 crocodiles which the team has managed to catch since the beginning of this year.

The team managed to hunt down the reptile during the wee hours yesterday following a series of efforts to capture some of these giant reptiles which have turned into man-eaters.

The giant croc which took 15 people to lift and loaded onto a lorry was later buried and disposed of in accordance with the proper procedure set by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC).

Measuring 16-foot, the gigantic croc hunted down in the Samarahan River on Mar 10, 2021.

The patron of the team Datuk Idris Buang told DayakDaily that the culling of crocodiles in Samarahan River has been ongoing since January this year, following the deaths of two young fishermen within the last three months.

Culling of giant crocs in the Samarahan River has become a necessity and an inevitable measure when both the villagers and the reptiles are fighting for the some space for survival.

“The local village folks have no choice. The river has been infested with crocodiles and some of them have grown big and become man-eating reptiles. Within the last three months, the crocodiles took two lives and one of them was SCH team members,” Idris told DayakDaily.

Azyan Azhar of Kampung Meranek, 28, who was part of the SCH team, was taken by a giant crocodile in front of his father’s eyes when they were fishing for prawns in January this year.

It was Jan 12, at 4am in morning. By that time, Azyan and his father had already bagged six kilograms of prawns and were quite happy with their catch. They were ready to call it a day after Azyan checked on their last net.

“Then out of the river, a giant crocodile practically jumped out of the river into the air and snatched Azyan who was then standing on his fishing boat.

“Azyan’s father witnessing everything. He saw the son being taken into the water and disappeared. After that, attempts had been made to search for Azyan,” said Idris who is also Muara Tuang assemblyman.

Search efforts went on for two days and on Jan 14, a body part consisting only of a right leg (from thigh to ankle) was found at the spot where Azyan was attacked. The case was closed following the family of Azyan accepting the body part as Azyan’s.

The body part, (from thigh to ankle), believed to be of Azyan Azhar, 28, that was found near the Sungai Samarahan estuary

Prior to Azyan’s tragedy, a friend of Azyan, 27-year-old Mohd Razid Hamran who was also from Kampung Meranek was another victim of man-eating crocs.

Mohd Razid was reported missing on Dec 14, 2020, after he was out collecting river snails. Two days later on Dec 16, the upper torso of Mohd Razid was found floating on Samarahan River near Kampung Meranek.

SCH was formed following the ill fate of Mohd Razid. It is supported by the assemblyman of the area, the local young fishermen and the elderly village chiefs as well as other government agencies such as SFC and the uniformed enforcement personnel who are all ready to render any assistance anytime.

The hunters of SCH operate legally based on the advice of all relevant authorities especially SFC, observing all laws related to animal protection, environment conservation as well as a legal possession of arms.

“Apart from the culling of giant crocs, one of the major responsibilities of SCH is to identify man-eating crocodile hotspots and also to professionally deal with the whole man-reptile conflict issue. The place where Azyan was attacked is actually a croc hotspot. Azyan knew it and was told not to go fish there.

“However, they are fishermen. Many of the folks living by the villages along the Samarahan River are inland fishermen whose livelihood depends on the river. They have no choice but to continue to fish, crocodile or not.

“It was sad that the lives of two young men were lost, just because they needed to make a living,” said Idris who is also Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) information chief.

Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) information chief Datuk Idris Buang.

To outsiders, crocodiles may be an interesting topic to read about, to gossip or even to romanticising about but to the villagers whose livelihood depends on Samarahan River and especially to the families of the victims of the croc attack, crocodiles are real and dangerous.

Just two days ago, at another part of Samarahan River called Sungai Mata, another fisherman experienced a close shave with another man-eating reptile.

“There have been many sightings of crocodiles by the villagers living by the Samarahan River and that there were and there are still attacks. Many attacks did not get reported because some got away and there were many cases of missing persons, involving village boys who were suspected of being victims of croc attack but their bodies are never found.

“SCH is trying its best to deal with the issue and we do hope we do it right, taking into consideration of all aspects including the safety of fishermen’s lives and villagers, preservation of the environment as well as animal protection and conservation,” said Idris. -DayakDaily