Malaysia: Harvesting of crocodiles and eggs in Sarawak proposed

YU JI and SIM LEOI LEOI The Star 2 Jun 16;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is proposing to harvest around 500 saltwater crocodiles and some 2,500 of their eggs from the wild in Sarawak every year.

Malaysia wants the crocodile species –Crocodylus porosus – to be moved from Appen­­­dix 1 to Appendix II under the Con­vention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

If the proposal – to be discussed during CITES 17th Conference of the Parties in September – is successful, international trade of the species in the wild, including its parts and products, will no longer be illegal and the animal can be legally harvested.

The proposal, however, only applies to Sarawak. Crocodiles in Sabah and peninsular Malay­­sia are still endangered and remain protected.

Sarawak Forest Department biodiversity conservation unit researcher Engkamat Lading said the wild population had increased dramatically over the past 40 years.

“Surveys on 48 rivers in Sarawak over a distance of about 12,000km recently have enabled us to come up with an estimate of between 12,000 and 13,000 crocodiles,” he said in an interview with The Star.

The state, which is already carrying out a cull of the animal’s population, has been calling for a relaxation on international trade restrictions following a series of widely reported attacks on humans.

In 2014, there were seven incidents with three fatalities while last year, there were 12 attacks, with eight deaths. Culling, said Engkamat, was carried out on certain crocodiles considered a nuisance to the public.

“It is only confined to adult animals (2.75m to 4.57m long) and a permit only allows for the capture of not more than three to four animals,” he said.

Permits must also be obtained from the Controller of Wild Life, without which culling would be illegal.

Traffic Southeast Asia regional director Dr Chris Shepherd expressed fear that allowing harvesting in Sarawak could eventually affect the crocodiles in other locations.

“A crocodile could be illegally killed over here and brought to Sarawak,” he said, adding that a scientifically sound monitoring system should first be put into place to allow for a quota to be adjusted.

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