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Jakarta Post

‘We are up to plan D or E’: Australian rescuers still have no luck catching crocodile

  • Ruslan Sangadji

    The Jakarta Post

Palu, Central Sulawesi   /   Fri, February 14, 2020   /   07:35 pm
‘We are up to plan D or E’: Australian rescuers still have no luck catching crocodile  Officers search for a crocodile caught in a motorcycle tire in the Palu River in Palu, Central Sulawesi, on Feb. 12.. (Antara/Mohamad Hamzah)

Australian presenter Matthew Nicolas Wright and fellow crocodile expert Chris “Willow” Wilson made another attempt at rescuing a crocodile trapped in a motorcycle tire in the Palu River, Central Sulawesi, on Friday.

This time, they focused on what used to be called the Yellow Bridge. With the help of a rescue team from the Central Sulawesi Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA Central Sulawesi), the two Australians were able to track the animal twice as it appeared on a sand dune at the river mouth.

Read also: Choked Palu crocodile not yet lured into rescuers’ trap

Wright then used a living duck as bait with a drone, which was later lost.

 “Started well, finished bad, no more drone,” Wright said in an Instagram story on Friday. “Willow and I are here just waiting for the crocodile. We just lost the drone, which was a little bit of bomber.”

Before being offered to the crocodile, the duck bait was hung on the drone, tied with a rope. The plan was for the crocodile to take the bait and pull the drone along as the device transmitted a feed of the animal’s movement and location.

But instead of approaching the bait, the crocodile – which had been resting on the sand dune – swam away before disappearing without a trace.

Wright said the large movement area for the crocodile had been one of their major obstacles. The Palu River is 90 kilometers long and flows through the city of Palu, with almost half of the basin area covered by tropical montane forest.

“Enthusiastic locals watching on the side of the river also often hindered rescue efforts,” Wright said, adding that the team was now discussing its next hunting strategies.

Wright said he had been following stories of the trapped crocodile for the past 18 months and had been trying his best to speak with Indonesian officials and get over to Palu to help relieve the crocodile.

The rescue efforts have been going since Tuesday when Wright joined the rescue team to prepare two traps and some floating drums. One of two traps made was then set in the Palu River with the bait of a live duck inside.

Read also: Australian presenter Matt Wright to help Palu crocodile stuck in tire for years

On Wednesday, the 4-meter-long trapped crocodile was nowhere to be seen, leaving only a medium-sized crocodile swimming freely around the trap. The bait somehow failed to lure the crocodile.

The rescue team then planned to up its strategy with the help of the police. On Thursday, the team members were back at the river, jumped on a boat and tried their luck, only to return empty-handed once again.

“We spent all night playing cat and mouse with the big fella in the river. Unfortunately, I think we were more the mouse. The crocodile is very cunning and cautious and it does not like the boat approaching him,” Willow wrote on an Instagram post on Friday.

“I think we are up to plan D or E now but today is another day.”

Although he has failed several times now, Wright said he was glad to be able to share his knowledge with Indonesian rescuers on how to catch and release a large saltwater crocodile in a skilled and most importantly, humane way.

During one rescue attempt, Wright was asked by the rescue team to catch a smaller crocodile from the river as training. He took the opportunity to catch a small crocodile to show the locals what to do when dealing with a wild crocodile.

“Environmental conditions in the water out here are very tough, coupled with the fact that this crocodile isn’t hungry because of the large food sources in the river. So, we need to make sure we are as prepared as we can be for this challenge,” Wright said.

As of Friday, Wright has two days left of his work permit. (syk)