Footage of a saltwater crocodile struggling for life in the Nilwala River went viral on social media recently. The animal was spotted by area residents in Katuwangoda but even though they had alerted officers at the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) office in Mirissa, attempts to rescue the animal had failed. However, preliminary investigations have revealed that the animal was killed from a bait that was used to capture the animal.
“It was a 17 foot long crocodile and the bait used to capture the animal has gotten entangled in its liver,” said Chinthaka Abeyratne, Wildlife Officer at Mirissa Wildlife Office. “The incident was then reported to the Matara Magistrate Court and the court ordered to conduct further investigations on the incident and produce a report. The post mortem will be conducted by the Udawalawe wildlife veterinary unit.”
When asked about suspects, Abeyratne said that search operations are still underway. “These incidents are frequently being reported because sometimes people capture crocodiles for meat. They are killed for safety reasons because there are incidents when crocodiles can be a threat to people. But it is a strictly protected species according to the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance and people who harm or kill crocodiles will be brought before the law.”
He further said that if they receive complaints regarding a crocodile threat that they would act immediately. “We also relocate crocodiles to less populated environments along the same ecosystem if the need arises.”
However, Department of Wildlife Conservation Director General M. G. C Sooriyabandara said that people are now becoming more aware of crocodiles and their whereabouts. “This is not a case of an increase in the crocodile population,” he said.
When asked if people who harm or kill crocodiles are brought before the law, he said that wildlife officers in respective areas conduct investigations if they are made aware of such incidents. He further said that wildlife officers have been trained to conduct rescue operations and relocation programmes depending on the situation.
The age of the crocodile is estimated to be around 60-70 years when looking at its size and are known to be dominant predators in their ecosystem. Male saltwater crocodiles have been recorded at lengths of 23 feet and weighing around 2000 pounds. However, females are much smaller in size and weight. (Kamanthi Wickramasinghe)