Apologies in advance: This is a tale that will make any already rubbish Monday mood deepen even further into the depths of a hellish world-weariness.
As reported by several outlets, a local man in the Indonesia province of West Papua – on the large island of New Guinea – was recently thought to have been killed by a crocodile from a wildlife sanctuary as he was picking grass for feeding animals nearby. Consequently, a mob of vengeful villagers decided to take matters into their own hands.
To wit, they marched to the wildlife sanctuary and slaughtered all 292 of the crocodiles with a range of weapons, from knives and hammers to shovels and clubs. The dead crocodiles ranged from younglings to fully grown adults.
The mob also attacked the office of the crocodile farm’s breeding sanctuary too. BBC News reports that local authorities said they couldn’t stop the attack, but may press charges.
Clearly, this is madness. Crocodiles aren’t all engaged in a murderous conspiracy to kill humans. If the local villager was indeed killed by one, it’s not as if it was maliciously planned by the individual croc or the entire group of them at the wildlife sanctuary.
The man’s death was a tragedy, sure – but the response was a demonstration of one of the worst, most irrational sides to humanity.
As noted by the Guardian, the farm was legally licensed to breed crocodiles, both for preservation efforts and for harvesting them for material goods. If one did in fact escape, then the sensible response would be to better secure the crocodiles, not to kill them all, and in such an inhumane way. As with other conservation efforts, better local educational and outreach efforts go a long way too.
There are a handful of crocodile species in New Guinea, including the freshwater New Guinea crocodile (Crocodylus novaeguinea) and the saltwater crocodile (C. porosus). Reports indicate that the farm bred both.
Fortunately, this species is listed as “least concern” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. That means that, generally speaking, it’s doing well in its natural habitats, although it wasn’t that long ago that they were listed as either “vulnerable” or “endangered” by the IUCN.
Saying that, the WWF notes that the internationally protected New Guinea crocodile species “remain very vulnerable to the commercial skin trade,” adding that the eastern section of the island, Papua New Guinea – not an Indonesian province – still exports both wild and captive crocodile products. These contribute to a decline in crocodile populations and a reduction in regional biodiversity.
The situation in West Papua is less clear, but it’s a good bet that killing nearly 300 protected crocodiles from two different species won’t exactly help.