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Jakarta Post

Choked Palu crocodile not yet lured into rescuers’ trap

  • Ruslan Sangadji

    The Jakarta Post

Palu, Central Sulawesi   /   Thu, February 13, 2020   /   09:09 am
Choked Palu crocodile not yet lured into rescuers’ trap Officers install a net to catch a crocodile caught up in a motorcycle tire in the Palu River, Central Sulawesi, on Friday. (Antara/Mohamad Hamzah)

A trap set by a rescue team was floating in the Palu River in Central Sulawesi on Wednesday, yet the 4-meter-long crocodile with a tire stuck around its neck was nowhere to be seen. Only a medium-sized crocodile was swimming freely around the trap.

Australian presenter Matthew Nicolas Wright, together with fellow crocodile expert Chris Wilson and the rest of the rescue team, set the trap on Tuesday afternoon, with hundreds of residents from Palu and the surrounding areas witnessing the rescue effort.

In an Instagram post on Wednesday, Wright said the team had managed to set a trap in the river and planned to up the game by heading over to the crocodile with the help of the police to try their luck in the river.

“It’s been logistically tough to get everything sorted here, but we are working within the BKSDA team and will get great results backed with experience and ideas,” Wright wrote, referring to the Central Sulawesi Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA Central Sulawesi), which previously formed the rescue team with the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

The participation of the two Australians is based on a decree issued by the Ministry on Monday to the BKSDA Central Sulawesi, into whose operational control the crocodile rescue team has been entrusted.

Wright posted a story on his Instagram page on Tuesday showing him standing on the side of the Palu River while pointing at the 4-m long crocodile hiding behind a rock. He also joined the rescue team to finalize plans and prepare two traps and floating drums.

One of two traps was then set in the Palu River on Tuesday, with the bait of a live duck inside.

“I hope this can work. Based on some of our experiences, there have been many crocodiles we have caught using these traps,” Wright said. “The river is shallow, so it’s possible with the trap.”

In Instagram posts earlier this month, Wright said he had been following the story of this trapped crocodile for the past 18 months and had been trying to work out the best window to get over to Palu and help relieve the crocodile from his tight choker.

“We have been talking closely with Indonesian officials including the Environment and Forestry Ministry and associated local organizations,” Wright said.

The trapped crocodile was first seen swimming with the tire around its neck in 2016. It was regularly spotted in the water connecting the Palu River and Palu Bay.

Officials and conservationists previously tried but failed to catch it. Locals believe the crocodile was frightened off because every time there was a rescue attempt, dozens of curious Palu residents swarmed around the river to watch the process.

Read also: Day 1: Australian experts set trap to rescue Palu crocodile choked by tire for years

Local community leaders had also carried out traditional ceremonies to lure the crocodile to come closer.

According to Alimuddin Rauf, a local community leader of the Kaili ethnic group, efforts to rescue the crocodile this time reminded the Palu residents of what-they-called the La Goroba crocodile that lived in the river in 1935.

The huge crocodile preyed on a sand miner working in the Palu River. La Goroba was so huge that it swallowed not only the sand miner but also his ox cart, Alimuddin claimed.

“Therefore, the residents named it La Goroba, which means [the cart],” he said, adding that, after the incident, locals were informed that La Goroba had been shot dead by a German named John Fischer with a golden bullet.

Because of the many stories of uncertain authenticity as well as some strange events that had definitely happened, Alimuddin said, residents were apprehensive about crocodiles in general and concerned about the one crocodile trapped in a tire. (syk)