Take the crocodile, for example, my favorite animal. There are 23 species. Seventeen of those species are rare or endangered. They’re on the way out, no matter what anyone does or says, you know.– Steve Irwin, wildlife expert, environmentalist and conservationist
Last week, the Fire and Rescue Department caught a killer crocodile and upon examining the contents of its stomach, human body parts and a T-shirt were found.
They were what was left of a 14-year-old boy, who was taken by the 4.7m long and 1.7m wide reptile in Tanjung Manis on July 26.
It brought to mind the day I followed the trail of another notorious killer, dubbed Bujang Senang (Jolly Bachelor), a 6m white-backed man-eater.
It attacked and killed Iban headman Bangan Pali in the Batang Lupar river on June 26, 1982.
Bangan was looking for shrimps when he stepped on the submerged reptile in Tanjung Bijat.
According to Bangan’s brother Kebir, who witnessed the attack, the water exploded and Bangan was knocked into the water by the reptile’s tail.
Within seconds, he was in its jaws, dragged into deeper waters. Kebir dived in and grabbed the tail of the monster in a failed attempt to save his brother.
When relatives found Bangan’s remains 10 days later, all that was left were his head and upper torso.
To quell the fears of residents, Commissioner of Police Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng initiated an operation to hunt Bujang Senang.
I joined the operation with crocodile expert Johnson Jong, a founder member of Jong’s Crocodile Farm, Siburan.
Johnson had been assigned to lure out Bujang Senang so that police sharpshooters could shoot it.
Johnson reckoned that the fastest and best way was to play a tape with the sounds of a baby crocodile crying in distress.
Leaving the muddy banks at 8pm, our small jam-packed vessel left for the hunt.
After about 15 minutes, we stopped the engine at a section of the river famous for massive reptiles, switched off the spotlight and started playing the tape over and over again.
When the police finally switched on the spotlight, we were surrounded by dozens of crocodile eyes shining on the water’s surface.
At that very moment, I visualised a scene where Bujang Senang would slide under our small boat and tip us over into the cold water, as seen in the many monster crocodile movies!
But we survived our stand-off with the intelligent crocodiles because they vanished underwater as fast as they emerged.
For the next 10 years, Bujang Senang remained elusive.
However, on May 21, 1992, the crocodile apparently broke an ancient taboo when it killed its last victim — Dayang Bayang — the sister-in-law of Bangan.
Dayang, 20, was wading across a chest-deep stream near her longhouse Rumah Kiang opposite Pulau Seduku when Bujang Senang struck.
Immediately after, her father Bayang Sapit rallied at least two dozen “warriors” armed with shotguns and spears, and they pursued the reptile up a small tributary near their longhouse.
In the four-hour long battle, Bayang and his group speared the white-backed massive monster and chased it upriver into the shallows.
When they got near, one of the men tried to spear it for a second time, but the spear’s head bent.
With the angry reptile cornered, it roared while three men fired simultaneously into its gaping mouth.
In its death throes, Bujang Senang thrashed about for another 15 minutes, attacking debris and tree stumps, before it died.
I went on to write the story with Johnson, and followed up with three books — ‘Bujang Senang: Terror of Batang Lupar’, ‘Man-Eating Crocodiles of Sarawak’ and ‘Bujang Senang — Raja Buaya’.
My books and the reptile’s skull are displayed at Jong’s Crocodile Farm where a cement replica of the reptile is also displayed at the entrance of the property.
Note: Johnson later estimated that Bujang Senang measured 5.9m and was at least 50 years old — the largest crocodile in Malaysia. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world’s largest crocodile was a 6.18m-long reptile nicknamed Lolong, captured in the Philippines on Sept 3, 2011.
Lolong, which was estimated to be about 50 years old, died in captivity two years later on Feb 10, 2013.
The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.