Gi­ant crocodiles don’t worry Dusi ca­noeists

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - VIC­TO­RIA JOHN

THE IN­FA­MOUS Um­geni croc­o­dile seems to have been joined by an even big­ger friend, ac­cord­ing to re­ports from ob­servers in the area.

In spite of this the Dusi Ca­noe Marathon from Pi­eter­mar­itzburg to Dur­ban will be­gin as planned on Thurs­day.

Ezemvelo Kwazulu-Natal Wildlife spokesper­son Jeff Ga­is­ford has con­firmed re­ceiv­ing re­ports about a “much larger croc­o­dile which is es­ti­mated to be about three me­tres long”.

Pad­dler An­gelique Mul­der said she was not too con­cerned. “I think peo­ple are ex­ag­ger­at­ing about this whole thing. It’s re­ally not that big. I pad­dle of­ten near Al­bert Falls where there are many crocodiles so this is re­ally not that big a deal.” Mul­der will take part in next week’s marathon.

Karel Cil­liers of Dur­ban North, a mem­ber of King­fisher Ca­noe Club, said, “I think the croc is more scared of hu­mans than we are scared of it”.

An ad­di­tional three traps have now been set along the Um­geni River to catch the elu­sive crocodiles.

Wildlife of­fi­cials hope to re­move the crocodiles be­fore the three-day marathon.

Ga­is­ford said the rep­tiles were a po­ten­tial threat to hu­mans but they had been “very well be­haved so far. They eat very lit­tle as it is. One meal a week, the size of a goose, is enough for them”.

Mar­garet Burger, of the Um­geni Es­tu­ary Con­ser­vancy, spoke of her con­cern for the crocodiles not hav­ing a “voice” and how they were pleased to see na­ture in the form of a croc­o­dile re­turn­ing to where it orig­i­nally be­longs.

Ga­is­ford said shoot­ing the crocodiles would be a last re­sort. “We would only shoot them if they were deemed to be a threat. There are three or four ap­proaches we could take to catch the croc­o­dile be­fore shoot­ing it. One is go­ing on a boat at night to catch it with a pole and noose. It is very dif­fi­cult with a three-me­tre croc­o­dile but it has been done be­fore.

“We would like to as­sure the pub­lic that ev­ery­thing will be done to catch the crocodiles un­in­jured”.

The traps are made of wire mesh and have a hinged door at one end, with a wire catch and a line con­nected to the bait.

“If any­thing at­tacks the bait, the door will snap closed, trap­ping it in­side,” Ga­is­ford said.

Wildlife of­fi­cials hope to re­move the croc­o­dile be­fore the start of the Dusi.

The first trap set con­tained a dead dog as bait as it was “an old piece of knowl­edge” that dog meat was the best croc bait, ac­cord­ing to Ga­is­ford and croc­o­dile ex­pert Mark Robert­son.

Au­thor­i­ties came un­der fire from an­i­mal rights au­thor­i­ties who said the dog could have been some­one’s pet and that it should not be as­sumed it was a stray.

But Ezemvelo de­fended the de­ci­sion, say­ing the an­i­mal’s body was found af­ter it had been struck by a car. “We would never use a live dog or kill a dog for bait,” said Ga­is­ford.

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