KUCHING •The Sarawak government has for the first time allowed hunters to apply for licences to hunt wild crocodiles in the Malaysian state's rivers, in a bid to control their growing population.
As from yesterday, the Forest Department will approve applications to hunt crocodiles and successful applicants can start hunting immediately, reported the Borneo Post.
Deputy Controller of Wildlife Engkamat Lading said on Thursday that at least 45 people have applied for licences to hunt and sell crocodile meat locally, while three have applied for licences to export crocodile meat, skin or hatchlings.
"Those who have obtained their licences from us can start harvesting crocodiles in the wild," he was quoted as saying. But he warned the licence holders that they would have to operate at their own risk.
"The Forest Department would not be liable for any untoward incident, especially when it comes to firearms."
He said the issuance of licences for controlled hunting of crocodiles in the wild would minimise conflict between humans and the reptiles.
"We will issue the licences only to those who 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 issued licences will be briefed further on our SOP (standard operating procedures). 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 be used only in Sarawak as other states do not allow harvesting of wild crocodiles.
There are dozens of rivers in the state with high crocodile populations, according to the report.
Sarawak has struggled over the last decade to address the rising number of crocodile attacks on its residents, mainly caused by a growing population of wild crocodiles.
Its efforts paid off in October last year when the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Wild Fauna and Flora agreed to take down the status of the state's wild crocodiles on its list by a notch in its regulations, allowing Sarawak to export crocodile meat and skins to overseas markets.