Samarahan’s own crocodile hunters

Crocodiles are easy. They try to kill and eat you. People are harder. Sometimes they pretend to be your friend first.

— Steve Irwin, Australian zookeeper and TV personality

Move over, Crocodile Dundee! Here come the Samarahan Crocodile Hunters.

Crocodile Dundee alias Mike Dundee is a famous Australian crocodile hunter portrayed by actor Paul Hogan in the 1986 action comedy film set in the Australian Outback and New York City. The film “Crocodile Dundee” was the highest-grossing Australian film worldwide and the second highest-grossing film in the United States in 1986.

In the film, Crocodile Dundee rescues Sue Charlton, a feature writer for a newspaper, when she is attacked by a large crocodile as she refills her canteen at a billabong.

Okay, you have heard about Crocodile Dundee and even watched the movie and its two sequels, Crocodile Dundee II (1988) and Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001), many times. But who are the Samarahan Crocodile Hunters?

Well, they are a newly formed group of 13 men in Muara Tuang who have the necessary skills and experience in hunting crocodiles. Muara Tuang assemblyman Datuk Idris Buang, who is the team’s patron, explained that the team was formed on Dec 19 to put an end to crocodile attacks on humans in Samarahan.

He said the team would be equipped with special tools and equipment and two boats to assist the authorities when there was a need to go hunting in the river. Of the 13 members, four are licensed to carry firearms to catch or cull crocodiles. The team will be assisted by the Muara Tuang First Response Team from their local service centre which has logistical and managerial capabilities.

Idris revealed that Kota Samarahan police chief ASP Rafhan Kepli had been appointed advisor of the Samarahan Crocodile Hunters.

Hours after its formation, the team received its first assignment — to help the villagers of Kampung Pinang who spotted a crocodile lurking under a house in the area.

The Samarahan Crocodile Hunters and Civil Defence Force members caught the reptile. But it is not known what they did with the crocodile after they caught it. Was it released to the wild, culled or sent to a wildlife centre? Was the crocodile big?

But one thing’s for sure — the villager visited by the crocodile was able to sleep more soundly that night. Other villagers were definitely happier there was one less crocodile in Samarahan.

Prior to the formation of Samarahan Crocodile Hunters, it was reported that Samarahan folk often encounter the reptiles in search of food on their properties. Now, that begs a pertinent question — are the crocodiles starving in the wild because of the shortage of natural sources of food like fish and prawns in the rivers?

Recently, a crocodile attack was believed to have claimed a life in Kampung Meranek, Kota Samarahan. Mohammad Razid Hamran, 27, went missing while searching for river snails on Dec 14. He left his house around 11pm and was expected to return the next day at 4am.

Fire and Rescue Department personnel, who were assigned the difficult and unenviable task of searching for missing persons in the state, found the upper half of Mohammad Razid’s body about a kilometre upstream from their makeshift operations centre.

Now, with the formation of the Samarahan Crocodile Hunters, there are more people to help the busy department look for villagers who go missing because of suspected crocodile attacks.

Kudos to the Muara Tuang assemblyman for apparently helping to form the crocodile hunting team. It is good to note that under the guidance of the caring assemblyman, the people are proactive in solving their own problems. Instead of waiting for help to come, they have decided to help themselves and put an end to crocodile attacks in Samarahan.

Kudos to these brave, skilful and experienced crocodile hunters, too, for putting their lives on the line. Crocodiles are dangerous and ferocious hunters but they do not necessarily set out to hunt humans. However, they are opportunistic predators and anything that moves is fair game.

Many countries have conducted studies on patterns of crocodile attacks and some conservation experts believe sharing these historical data can save human and crocodile lives in areas where these attacks take place.

For instance, according to a report from BBC, attacks are often seasonal and occur during rainfall, when temperature increases, and breeding season. Conservation experts studying crocodile attacks in South Africa found most of them happened while people were swimming; boys were attacked more often because, in the eyes of the reptiles, they were smaller preys.

Men who were attacked were often fishing while women were crossing rivers or doing domestic chores.

Since Sarawak is infamous for its man-eating crocodiles — there are yearly reports of crocodile attacks in many of the state’s rivers — can we expect more local crocodile hunting teams to be formed in the near future? Will other MPs and state representatives follow the good example of Idris and help form or sponsor other crocodile-hunting teams in constituencies with frequent crocodile attacks?

Let us wait and see.