KUCHING - Sarawak will now issue licences for hunting crocodiles in the wild in a bid to control the population of the reptiles.
From Friday (Aug 18), the Forest Department will approve applications to hunt crocodiles and successful applicants can start hunting immediately.
Deputy Controller of Wildlife Engkamat Lading said on Thursday that at least 45 individuals have applied for licences to hunt and sell crocodile meat locally, while three have applied for licences to export crocodile meat, skin or hatchlings, the Borneo Post reported.
"Those who have obtained their licences from us can start harvesting crocodiles in the wild," Engkamat was quoted as saying.
But he warned the licence holders that they would have to operate at their own risk, according to the report.
"The Forest Department would not be liable for any case of untoward incidence especially when it comes to firearms."
He said the issuance of licences for controlled hunting of crocodiles in the wild would minimise conflicts between humans and the reptiles.
"We will only issue the licences to those whom we deem capable of assisting us in the management of crocodiles in the wild. This will ensure sustainable harvesting of the resource," he said.
"Those who will be issued licences will be briefed further on our SOP. This is to prevent misuse and overharvesting. We have to observe certain quotas for various sizes of crocodiles, either as meat for sale or live ones for crocodile farms."
The report said the licences can only be used in Sarawak as other states do not allow harvesting of wild crocodiles.
The top 55 rivers with high crocodile population in the state are Batang Lupar and its tributaries, Batang Saribas and its tributaries, Batang Samarahan and its tributaries, and Sungai Santubong and its tributaries, according to the report.
Sarawak's over one decade of struggle to address increasing crocodile attacks on humans was finally paid off after a change in the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), permitting the harvesting of saltwater crocodiles in Sarawak.