City dangles cash prize to lure crocodile hunters

KUPANG • An Indonesian city is offering cash prizes to people who are able to catch crocodiles, in a bid to rid its popular beaches of the man-eating reptiles.

The population of dangerous saltwater crocodiles around two beaches near Kupang, in East Nusa Tenggara province in eastern Indonesia, has been increasing in recent years and there have been reports of tourists being attacked.

The authorities now plan to launch a competition that will offer a five million rupiah (S$520) cash prize to animal experts for each of the reptiles caught alive, said tourism chief Marius Ardu Jelamu yesterday.

"We have warned visitors to be careful when visiting the beaches but it's not enough. We must do something," Mr Jelamu told Agence France-Presse. "Some of these animals are 3m to 4m long."

Mr Jelamu said only people experienced in dealing with crocodiles - and not the general public - were being targeted by the scheme. The animals would likely be caught using tranquilliser guns and ropes. After being captured, the reptiles - which cannot be killed as they are a protected species under Indonesian law - would be released into the wild, far from the beaches.

Participants will compete in teams and the scheme is set to begin in the near future, said Mr Jelamu.

However, the local wildlife agency expressed concerns that the contest could be dangerous for participants, with agency chief Maman Surahman saying crocodiles were "scary creatures" for humans.

Saltwater crocodiles are the largest crocodile species. They can reach up to 7m in length, and are known as formidable predators.

The sprawling Indonesian archipelago is home to a vast array of exotic wildlife, including several species of crocodile, and there are often reports of crocodiles attacking and killing people in the country.

In April, a Russian tourist was mauled to death by a crocodile in the Raja Ampat islands, a popular diving site in the east of the archipelago.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2016, with the headline 'City dangles cash prize to lure crocodile hunters'. Print Edition | Subscribe