Friday, September 3, 2010

Crocodiles on the Crocker Range

Trip to Kampong Kibambangan, Penampang from July 5 to July 7, 2010:

Oh What?

I just finished my preparation works. It was 1 pm now. Freddie and Patrick have gone to the sampling site near to the Kibambangan Resort. Time seemed to slow down. The afternoon was so hot and I was soaking. I went to the Kibambangan River and dipped my left foot into the river and could feel the coldness of the water. Suddenly, the temptation to jump into the river surged into me. I went back to my room to put on bikini and brought my towel, body and hair shampoo to the river. I could not wait to soak my body and without further ado I jumped straight into the river. The river water invigorated my tired and sweating body. I was so occupied with my activity and I did not realize that Patrick was standing at the bank of the river.

“Dency, don’t get to far. The crocodile will get you.”

“What? There are crocodiles in this river. I don’t believe in you. There are so many big fishes here and we are on the hilly area.”

“There is a crocodile farm behind of this kampong. Within three years, we killed 11 crocodiles in this river.”

“Yaiks. The towkey (Chinese businessman) should not set up a crocodile farm near kampong and again near river.”

“He doesn’t care as long as he gets profit from selling his crocodiles.”

I was so startled to hear Patrick’s story and immediately I got out from the river. He laughed at my act and said that the river is safe at this moment. It has been a year they did not kill a single crocodile in the river. He asked me if I wanted to see the crocodile farm. I nodded my head agreeing to his offer.

The farm

At 3 pm, Freddie, Patrick and I went to the crocodile farm. Before that, we checked all our mist-nets that are erected in an orchard and a grassy area. Once we were done with our works, we crossed a small river which is a part of the Kibambangan River. Luckily, on that day, the river was shallow and three of us could easily cross the river. Next, we went up a small hill and walked for about five minutes before reaching the farm. We were greeted by a group of fat dogs that belong to the Timor Leste workers. I never saw big fat dogs in my life and ask Patrick what they ate. He explained that the workers fed them with crocodile meat or sometime leftover chicken. In the farm, we saw four big artificial ponds. Each pond consists of 50 to 150 crocodiles. The first pond which is near to the farm office consists of male and female crocodiles. They are put together so that they can breed and produce their offsprings. The pond itself equips with small breeding cages. When there are eggs in the cages, the workers will close the cage doors and collect the eggs.

The eggs will be transferred to a special incubation room and will be left there to get hatched. The baby crocodiles will be transferred to pond number two. After a year the baby crocodiles grow up to become a juvenile crocodiles. They will be moved again to pond number three and when they reached certain age, they will be transferred again to pond number four. We inspected all the ponds and Patrick expressed his concern about the height of the pond fence. It is just about Freddie’s height which is 5 feet 1 inch. Patrick mentioned his theory how the 11 crocodiles managed to escape from the farm. He assumed that a small crocodile will ask other big crocodiles to gather and assemble themselves as a ladder for the small crocodile to climb up over the fence. When I heard his theory I laughed for a while. However, I accepted his theory based on the fact of bad condition of pond number three and four.

The future

On the way back to our sampling site, I asked Patrick what was the villagers’ action towards the incidents. He said that they already gave many warnings to the Towkay. However, the Towkey just brushed under carpet and he defended himself that his pond fences were in good condition. The villagers reprimanded him if they found a crocodile in the river again; they would make a report to Sabah Wildlife Department to revoke his permit. I agreed with their action. The safety of villagers and also the fish stock in the river must be protected from any danger. I hoped that there would be a win-win situation between the owner of the crocodile farm and the villagers of Kampong Kibambangan.


The picture of three crocodiles lined up is my first comical drawing. I took about 1 hour to draw it.