PALU – A wild crocodile with a used motorcycle tire stuck around its neck for six years has finally been freed by an Indonesian ornithologist in a tireless effort that wildlife conservation officials hailed as a milestone on Wednesday.
The 4.5-metre (14.8-foot) female saltwater crocodile has become an icon for the people of Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi. The beast was seen on the city river with the tire around its neck getting tighter and tighter, in danger of suffocating it.
Conservation officials have been racing to save the crocodile since residents spotted the reptile in 2016, earning sympathy from residents and around the world. In 2020, Australian crocodile wrestler Matthew Wright and American wildlife biologist Forrest Galante unsuccessfully tried to free the reptile.
In early January, 35-year-old bird catcher and trader Tili, who recently moved to the city, heard about the famous crocodile from his neighbors and decided to save the reptile after seeing it frequently basking in a neighboring estuary.
“I have experience and skill in catching animals, not just birds, but farm animals that are released from the cage,” Tili, who goes by one name, told The Associated. Press. “I believe I can save the crocodile with my skills.”
He threaded ropes of various sizes into a trap tied to a tree near the river and set chickens, ducks and birds as bait. After three weeks of waiting and several unsuccessful attempts, the crocodile finally fell into the trap on Monday evening. With the help of two of his friends, Tili pulled the trapped crocodile to the ground and sawed off the tire, which was 50 centimeters (1.6 ft) in diameter.
A video that circulated widely on the internet showed a crowd cheering nearby as Tili and his friends freed the crocodile. Other residents then contacted firefighters and a wildlife conservation agency to help them release the animal into the wild.
“For all the effort Tili has made to protect wildlife and be the kind of animal lover he is, this is a big milestone,” said Haruna Hamma, who heads the province’s conservation agency. Central Sulawesi.
He said it was unclear how a used motorcycle tire got stuck around the crocodile’s neck. Conservationists said it was likely deliberately planted by people in a failed attempt to trap it as a pet or carve it up for sale, but crocodiles and other swimming reptiles often travel in waters filled with trash with nothing to stop a tire from encircling them, Hamma says.
Government data recorded 279 crocodile attacks in Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago with more than 17,000 islands, between 2007 and 2014. Of these, as many as 268 cases of attacks were perpetrated by crocodiles from salt water, 135 of which were fatal.
Despite attacks, the saltwater crocodile is protected by Indonesian law.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.