A second crocodile found in as many months within Maldivian waters is currently being held by police as they look for a “safe area” to keep the animals, with one expert suggesting that investment in the creatures’ protection could have mutual benefits for local people and the tourism industry.
Maldives-based marine biologist Verena Wiesbauer Ali has suggested that although crocodiles may remain a rare presence in the Maldives’ tropical atolls, investment in providing them with a safe enclosure in the country could pay off as a popular attraction for wildlife lovers.
The claims were made as police confirmed that a six-foot crocodile was found yesterday near the waters of Naifaru in Lhaviyani Atoll by a fishing boat crew, following on from the apprehension of a four-foot croc by authorities last month in Thaa Atoll.
The Lhaviyani Atoll crocodile is thought to be the third such creature of its kind to have been captured in Maldivian waters and the second to be discovered this year alone, with one marine biologist calling the appearance of the animals a “surprising” and rare occurrence within the country.
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the crocodile was found in local waters at about 2pm yesterday afternoon and was now being kept in the local police station near where it was found in Lhaviyani Atoll, while the police service consulted the environment ministry on the best course of action.
“We will hold the crocodile until we can find a safe area to keep it,” he said. “We will look at ways to keep the animal without having to kill it, which would remain one possible option.”
Shiyam said that it was currently in talks with environment experts about whether there was a growing chance of crocodiles likely to be found in the country’s waters.
“At this moment we are not sure yet [how common they are expected to be],” he added.
Although not professing to be a crocodile expert, Verena Wiesbauer Ali, a marine biologist and environmental consultant for local company Water Solutions, told Minivan News that although species such as saltwater crocodiles were common in India, it was “quite surprising” to find them in the atolls of the Maldives.
Wiesbauer claimed that she believed it would probably be these saltwater crocodiles that have been most recently discovered in the Maldives and although they are rare, the public should be careful.
“It is good that the police have taken the animals. They are of course dangerous, particularly after having potentially travelled such a long way. They could be hungry,” she said. “The best thing for people who come across a crocodile in the Maldives is to get out of the water and call the police.”
According to Wiesbauer, the major issue for police holding the animals will now be to find places to keep the crocodiles while also letting them”live in dignity” – options that she claimed are currently limited in the Maldives.
The last previous reptilian stranger to be found in the Maldives, a nine foot-long crocodile called ‘Kimboo’, is currently kept in the Kudakudhinge Bageecha (children’s park) in Male’, after it was caught by Maldives National Defence Force cadets in 1998.
In July 2010, students at Billabong High School in Male’ launched a campaign to ‘Save Kimboo’, due to the small size of its enclosure and poor treatment.
Kimboo occasionally makes it into local media and even has his own Facebook page calling for his release, but so far nothing has eventuated.
Wiesbauer said that although Kimboo’s cage was kept clean, she believed it was far too small for an animal of its size to now be kept.
The marine biologist said by comparison that all three creatures may therefore benefit from potential government or private investment into a special enclosure within the country that could be of interest as an attraction for local people and tourists.
Wiesbauer claimed that she is already considering putting together proposals for the government to consider the possible development of an enclosure in an area such as Villingili in North Male’ Atoll where huge areas of government land currently remain unused.
“It may be a bit utopian, but we have to think about these creatures welfare now they are here,” she added. “The creatures should not be killed, either they should be protected in an enclosure or they should be exported to zoos in countries like Sri Lanka or India. But who would pay for this service?”