KUCHING: The state’s plan to control the crocodile population through commercial culling might be jeopardized as hunters are reportedly haunted by the reptiles they killed.
Highlighting the deeply held local cultural taboos, Sarawak Forestry Department director Sapuan Ahmad said many locals are reluctant to hunt the reptiles.
“Because of the taboos among the people, they dream about the fellow (crocodile) at night,” he told reporters, sharing an anecdote he had heard.
He said only locals who know the areas would be given licenses to hunt and more than 10 licenses had been issued for populated areas such as Batang Lupar with no limit on the number of crocodiles to be culled.
“So far there is no export, only the meat for local consumption, because the skin (of the crocodile) is too old and not good. For bags, the crocodiles’ skin must be three-years-old.”
The crocodile population in the state was reported to have increased tremendously over the years, especially in Samarahan River which increased by 108.5 per cent between 1985 to 2014.
Samarahan River is followed by Sarawak Mangrove Wetland in the Pulau Salak area (34.5 per cent) and Limbang (28.5) as well as Batang Lupar (28.4). Other rivers which registered an increase of crocodile population are Suai River (22.4), Rajang River (21.5) and Baram (14.7).
Currently, the wild crocodile population in Sarawak is estimated to be at least 13,500 and the most infested river has a ratio of 2.18 crocodiles per every 2 km.
The number of human-crocodile conflict cases has also increased over the years. Between 2010 to Aug 2016, there were 52 cases of human-crocodile conflicts which claimed the lives of 27 victims with 25 survivors.
In October last year, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) granted the state permission to downgrade crocodiles to Appendix II, which allows trading of skin and meat of the culled reptiles.