Croc-related incidents on the rise in 2017-18

|     James Kon     |

THE 95 cases of crocodile encroachment attended by Fire and Rescue Department in 2014-2018 showed a significant increase of incidents in the last two years, with 29 recorded in 2017 and 26 in 2018.

According to data compiled from newspaper reports and monitoring carried out by the Wildlife Division at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT), there were 28 cases of human-crocodile conflicts, during which four people were killed and two were injured.

The increase in human-crocodile conflicts was raised yesterday by Head of the Wildlife Division Mardani bin Haji Mahadi, in a presentation titled ‘Overview on the Status of Crocodiles’ at the Fish Landing Complex in Muara.

The two-day training course on how to manage the threat of wild crocodiles in Brunei Darussalam was officially launched by Deputy Permanent Secretary at the MPRT Haji Abdul Halidi bin Haji Mohd Salleh.

In his presentation, Mardani highlighted a number of areas where crocodiles have been sighted: the coast of Pulau Muara Besar; Muara Beach; the fish farms at Pengkalan Sibabau, Sungai Bunga and Buang Tawar; the Mentiri fisheries industry; the Damuan, Bengkurong, Paku, Birau and Lumut rivers; Kampong Ayer; Kampong Keramut; Kuala Tutong; Kampong Danau; Pekan Tutong; Lubok Pulau; Sungai Dua; Rampayoh; RPN Kampong Pandan in Kuala Belait; and Batang Duri in Ulu Temburong.

Head of the Wildlife Division Mardani bin Haji Mahadi during his presentation yesterday
Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism Haji Abdul Halidi bin Haji Mohd Salleh attends the briefing. – PHOTOS: JAMES KON

Mardani pointed out that the increase in incidents is likely caused by the threat to the crocodiles’ habitat from rapid development, which has led to a disruption in their food source.

There are two types of crocodiles in Brunei Darussalam, namely saltwater crocodile and freshwater crocodile. The crocodiles are not listed in the 34 protected species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1978 (amendment 1984) Chapter 102; however, they are listed in Appendix 1 in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and international trade is fully controlled by the Wild Flora and Fauna Order 2007.

In raising public awareness, Mardani said that warning signboards have been installed at the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Silver Jubilee Park, Taman Mahkota Jubli Emas, Pekan Tutong, the Kuala Belait Recreational Park, Kampong Sungai Teraban and Pekan Bangar, with yet more signboards to be installed in the future.

No proper study or research on crocodiles has been conducted in Brunei Darussalam, in terms of species distribution, habitat, status and trends, population size and structure. However preliminary surveys conducted in 2006 at Selirong Island and other parts of Brunei Bay, stated that the relative density is 0.33 individuals crocs/km as part of its habitat is undistributed (Ibrahim and Cox, 2006).

In his summation, the Head of the Wildlife Division expressed his hope for the implementation of an action team comprising relevant government agencies, as well as educational programmes through roadshows, dialogue and media, talks from crocodile experts, and capacity-building.

He also highlighted the need for a population study of the Crocodylus Porosus (saltwater crocodile) and the Malayan False Gharial (freshwater crocodile) in Brunei Darussalam.

The training is being facilitated by Programme Director of Crocodile Research and Conservation of Crocodylus Porosus Philippines Inc Rainier Manalo.