Indian team happy to help set up safe-house enclosure for crocs

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A second saltwater crocodile made news last Thursday when it was captured at sea and brought ashore in Matara. The reptile was seen drifting in the shallow waters of the sea and fighting the waves.

The Matara Disaster Management Centre captured the crocodile.Wildlife Officer R. Gurusinghe, of the Kalamatiya Range Office, arrived at the scene and confirmed the crocodile appeared to be sick. The reptile was brought ashore and later released in the Yala National Park. According to the Kalamatiya wildlife office, the crocodile was 14 feet long.

Animal experts say most crocodile attacks are preventable, and it is only a few rogue animals that attack humans. Attacks by crocs average less than five a year. In contrast, elephant attacks account for an average 50 human deaths a year, and there is an even higher death toll from snakebite. Dogs were responsible for 43 people dying from rabies last year.

Dozens join in rescue operation to save croc that was in difficulty in the seas off Matara.

The dengue mosquito killed over 100 persons in the same period, but crocodile attacks capture the attention of the public due to their fear of reptiles.

Crocodiles are an important link in healthy ecosystems. Crocodile expert Dr. Anslem de Silva told the Sunday Times that the Nilwala River is one of the last refuges of the saltwater crocodile. Killer crocs should be confined in a designated crocodile enclosure that has been proposed in Muthurajawela and Kirala Kele in Maytara, he says.

Dr. de Silva, who is vice-chairman of the Crocodile Experts for Asia of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), says that introducing saltwater crocodiles found in other areas to Yala can cause an imbalance in the ecosystem. Yala is also home to the freshwater or mugger crocodile, the other crocodile species in Sri Lanka.

The much bigger saltwater crocodiles could kill the smaller mugger crocodile in the fight for food and space, Dr. de Silva said. Like the elephant, the crocodile has homing instincts. Relocated crocodiles are known to make their way back to their home grounds, crawling distances of up to hundreds of kilometres.

The proposed enclosure for killer crocs would be a better solution, Dr. de Silva. said. In India, there is a facility for crocodiles that has become a world-famous tourist attraction. The Sunday Times spoke to Romulus Whitaker, founder of the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology. The MCBT is a reptile zoo and herpetology research station, south of Chennai, in Tamil Nadu.

Mr. Whitaker confirmed that man-eating crocs were probably best kept in captivity, provided the enclosures were suitable for the animal.

The Madras Crocodile Bank has been rearing and breeding thousands of crocs of 18 different species for the past 37 years. If Sri Lanka is to set up a captive croc facility, it should send a team of responsible officers to visit the Madras Crocodile Bank and they will be happy to assist in providing training in handling crocs in captivity, he said.

Published on SundayTimes www.sundaytimes.lk/120422/News/nws_11.html 

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