PNG CROC HUNTERS THIN POPULATION AFTER ATTACK

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Rabaul, East New Britain victim narrowly escaped death

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 2, 2011) – In Papua New Guinea (PNG), a crocodile hunting team has commenced a six-day program to hunt down crocodiles in Rabaul district waters.

The team consisting Rabaul district officers and members of the East New Britain Provincial Crocodile team is headed by crocodile specialist in the province, Luke Waipo, and professional crocodile head hunter Ben Ambu.

The team has been set up following the attack of a Matupit Islander recently by a crocodile on the island. The victim Michael Maravit was wounded by a crocodile under his left chest while swimming at the beachfront around 8 and 9 pm on January 10. He narrowly escaped death and was treated at the Nonga Base Hospital for injuries he sustained from the attack.

The crocodile hunting team will conduct search operations, which will include day time investigations to identify crocodile tracks, setting of traps in the afternoons and hunt and kill searches at night.

The objective of the program is to kill and remove the man attacking crocodiles and also to survey and identify crocodile breeding grounds and population in the Rabaul area.

Mr. Waipo said likely crocodile breeding areas would be covered, such as the coastline of Vulcan and Matupit volcanoes, coastlines of Malaguna, Rapolo, Valaur, Karavia and Matupit villages, Karavia and Vulcan swamp and lake areas and the Matupit sulphur creek.

Mr. Waipo also said that the team would also conduct awareness on the importance of crocodiles and their history in the province.

During a briefing at the Rabaul district headquarters, Mr. Waipo informed the team that crocodiles had been in the province long before the colonial times and World War II.

He said there were many crocodiles then, but hunting them with guns for their skin for money and for food decreased the population until the early 1970s.

Just before PNG’s Independence, Mr. Waipo said the crocodile management and protection action was established by the Government which put in place controls and prohibited the use of firearms to kill crocodiles.

Mr. Waipo emphasized that the act had prevented the killing of young and mature breeder crocodiles that laid eggs in their wild natural habitats.

"This has allowed for the crocodile population to grow thus infesting swamps, rivers and lakes in PNG including East New Britain."

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