Rescue and Capture Techniques for Wildlife Needed

Some weeks ago we learnt of a tragic death of a 6m crocodile after being rescued from a dam in Klang.   To be able to leave up to that size is no mean feat having escaped from its predator  – man –  all this while in a country that has traditionally had a great mistrust of them.

While it was the good intention of the Fire and Rescue Department officers to free the reptile from its fate, its death brings to mind a very important unanswered question.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) calls for serious attention to the number of massive reptiles being caught by the Fire and Rescue personnel and the  Civil Defence Corp in the past, which also resulted in the death of a gargantuan python three days after capture.

A pertinent question is are our rescue team well equipped to deal with capture of massive wildlife?  SAM  believes otherwise.   From the picture seen SAM is horrified at the manner in which the crocodile was hauled up,  reminiscent to hauling up a piece of huge log rather than a breathing living creature.   Experts who are professional in the field of wildlife claimed that pulling up the crocodile in this manner may have caused suffocation to the reptile if the pressure is too strong, and limbs maybe broken with too much force.  Also too soft restraint makes the animal think it has a chance of escaping therefore it struggles more.

Crocodiles particularly large crocs are often severely stressed during and after capture and are easily killed or injured by inappropriate handling.  Stress can lead to “capture myopathy”  – the shock of being caught, poked and prodded.

Taking, handling and transporting of crocodiles need special expertise where training is needed on large animal rescue. There is no understanding of proper wildlife capture techniques.  Picture taking with captive wild animals seems to be the priority  rather than the welfare of wild caught animals, which often requires considerations different from those applicable to captive-bred or domesticated species.

SAM’s understanding is that there is a Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)  for the Fire and Rescue department and the Civil Defence Corp for the handling of reptiles,  but is there a similar approach for amphibians – such as a one-ton croc? Are personnel from these two departments equipped with the necessary knowledge and experience in crocodile capture and handling technique to minimise the potential impacts of capture, as well as having a thorough knowledge of the species being caught  (behaviour, reaction to stress, ability to defend itself)?

It is time the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Wildlife department take into account that capture of wild crocodiles,  reptiles and other wildlife species should only be conducted by those with skills and training in capture and handling techniques and not those without the expertise and skills.

SAM hopes that the necropsy report will be made public so as to ascertain the actual cause of death and if anything could have been done to prevent it.

Letter to Editor, 19 June 2017