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Jakarta Post

One croc wrangler returns to Australia but rescue efforts, crowdfunding still under way in Palu

  • Ruslan Sangadji

    The Jakarta Post

Palu   /   Sun, February 16, 2020   /   05:03 pm
One croc wrangler returns to Australia but rescue efforts, crowdfunding still under way in Palu Officers install a net in the hopes of capturing a crocodile to remove a tire from its neck in the Palu River, Central Sulawesi, on Feb. 7. (Antara/Mohamad Hamzah)

After five days of engaging in a cat-and-mouse game with a crocodile in Central Sulawesi to no avail, Australian crocodile observer Chris Wilson – who had assisted in local rescue efforts alongside fellow expert Matthew Nicolas Wright – decided to bow out and return to his home country on Saturday.

The crocodile, regularly spotted swimming in the Palu River, has had a used motorcycle tire stuck around its neck for years and has foiled repeated attempts to remove the tire, including a recent rescue contest held by the Central Sulawesi Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA Central Sulawesi).

Wilson wrote on his official Instagram page @willow_nt that his adventure in Central Sulawesi had come to an end and expressed hope that his colleague Wright would liberate the crocodile from its rubber shackles in the next few days.


A post shared by Chris "Willow" Wilson (@willow_nt) on

“My adventure in Palu has come to an end! Absolutely devastated I’m not going to be here when Matty [Wright] finals [sic] gets him under control!” he wrote in the post, which came with video footage of himself explaining the difficulties he faced on Saturday night.

He said he and other members of the rescue team, including Wright, had spent the entire day tracking the animal over 7 kilometers on foot.

“Had a couple of close chances but once again the crowds, the high flowing water, full moon, and many other factors working against us!” he wrote.

Wilson left Palu at 9 a.m. local time for Jakarta, from where he would catch a flight back to Australia.

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

“Chris had returned to his home country this morning, but Matt will remain in Palu for the next four days,” BKSDA Central Sulawesi wildlife rescue team leader Haruna said.

He said the agency would continue local rescue efforts even after Wright returned to Australia.

“We will keep using harpoons. Members of our team trained with Matt using harpoons yesterday. I hope our team will be able to put the knowledge to practice and work properly without Matt’s assistance,” Haruna said.

Wright himself said in an Instagram post that everything was going well but that the BKSDA team had exhausted its funds. 


A post shared by Matt Wright (@mattwright) on

“I’ve started a GoFundMe page, if you can jump on that, donate a bit of money, give these guys a bit of leg-up, and keep this operation rolling,” he said. “I’m only going to be here for another couple of days. Now if we catch him, we catch him. If not, it’s going to be an ongoing process.”

Wilson and Wright previously joined BKSDA Central Sulawesi to assist in the rescue of the crocodile. The participation of the two Australians is based on a decree issued by the Environment and Forestry Ministry on Monday to BKSDA Central Sulawesi, into whose operational control the crocodile rescue team has been entrusted.

Wilson and Wright had worked extensively with the agency in employing various tricks to attract the crocodile’s attention over the past five days – the latest of which entailed tying a live duck onto a drone and having it hover over the crocodile on Friday. The effort failed, however, as the crocodile ignored the bait and swam away, disappearing without a trace for a several hours.

Wright tried to rescue the animal again using a harpoon, this time without Wilson’s help, alongside BKSDA Central Sulawesi personnel in the early hours of Sunday. His harpoon had caught on the crocodile’s hardened hide, but the animal eventually managed to shake it off.

The team kept trying to catch the crocodile with harpoons until the animal disappeared again at dawn. “The word ‘tired’ is not in our vocabulary. We will track it down again,” Wright said. (rfa)