KOTA KINABALU, July 24 — In Sabah, where there is an emerging issue of human-wildlife conflict, one animal that humans seem to see more of is the salt water crocodile that are showing up in urban rivers and waterways.
But despite its ferocious nature and stories such as the legend of Bujang Senang, a crocodile that was said to have terrorised communities around the Batang Lupar river in Sarawak, this apex predator is not immune to threats.
“Their sheer potency makes them objects of desire, both to the tourist trade and the luxury goods market for their skins. And when crocodiles come into contact with humans, the results can be violent,” said crocodile researcher Sai Kerisha Kntayya.
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In the latest episode of Borneo Jungle Diaries, a web series that showcases Sabah’s wildlife through the eyes of researchers at the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), the limelight is on the saltwater crocodile and Kntayya, a PhD student studying the reptiles.
“As a developing nation, people and crocodiles are moving into very close proximity with each other. If we want both humans and crocodiles — and the many other species that rely on the balance of the ecosystem — to survive, we need to reconsider how we do not merely inhabit, but cohabit,” said Kntayya.
Her research brought her to DGFC, on the banks of the Kinabatangan River where it hosts one of the largest crocodile populations in the world.
Over the course of her research, Kntayya believes the animals dubbed “salties” are actually shy and reserved, but necessarily aggressive in their natural habitat — their 90 million years of existence is testament to their ability to adapt and stay on top of the food chain.
Her work is dedicated to building a more accurate picture of Borneo’s crocodile population and come up with a management plans with aims to increase its genetic diversity.
Alongside her PhD work, Kntayya is helping DGFC in their efforts to map the movements of various animal populations in the Kinabatangan: “Besides my research, I will also be hand-capturing baby crocodiles and tagging adult crocodiles”.
By tracking their movements, Kerisha hopes to get insights on their movements patterns and core habitat selection — “the kind of information that is crucial for informing local and national conservation plans.”
“Let us not forget that a developed nation not only looks into the interests of its people, but also the interest of its friendly animal neighbours. We must consider it our duty as Malaysians to preserves the natural resources we have. If not us, who?,” she said.
All episodes of Borneo Jungle Diaries can be found on d SZtv’s website (Scubazoo.tv) and Youtube, as well as on the Facebook pages of SZtv & DGFC for free.
Viewers are also encouraged to take part in the competition that is being held; just answer five questions from the episode correctly each week to win a 4 day/3 night stay the Danau Girang Field Centre. There will also be a grand prize at the end of the 10-series Borneo Jungle Diaries for those who get all questions correct across all quizzes. For more information, check out Borneo Jungle Diaries on the SZtv website.