Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim has confirmed plans to bring a small crocodile from abroad to replace the large crocodile which has been caged at the capital’s children park for almost 15 years.
Following its capture in 1998, the then almost four-feet long Kinboo (a local term for the animal) was put in the cage by the government for public entertainment and has remained so ever since.
It is now almost 10 feet long and has outgrown the cage which has not been expanded. The water in the cage barely covers its belly while its long powerful tail has to be curled up to fit inside the roofed-cage that is no larger than 15 by 10 feet-an apparent violation of both international and national laws forbidding animal cruelty.
When Minivan News asked Defence Minister Nazim if the ministry has any plans to address the crocodile enclosure issue, he responded: “We have planned to do something with the Kinboo. We are going the send the big Kinboo to a zoo abroad and bring a small Kinboo to keep in the cage instead.”
Former government’s have also said the same about sending the croc to a zoo abroad following occasional public calls Kinboo’s immediate release. But none of the times, the talks transformed into actions and it is yet unclear what the future holds for the large reptile in captivity.
Nazim noted that “two countries have shown interest.” But he stopped short from revealing the names of the interested countries claiming the discussion are underway and ministry hopes the costs of transfer will be covered by the new host country.
According to the Minister, a smaller crocodile will be brought to replace the bigger one because a lot of children enjoy watching the the creature in its cage.
“It is useful for educating the children. So we are planning to bring a small Kinboo.” he noted. “When it grows big we will send it off abroad again.”
However, in 2010 a group of children from Billabong High School went onto a mission to save the kinboo from its captivity.
Aishath Suha, a grade eight student told Minivan News at the time that she volunteered for the operation “because I don’t want to see kimboo suffer.”
Nazim says that environmental NGO’s and animal rights groups will be consulted before taking a decision on replacing the Kinboo.
Two dead, one alive
Meanwhile, Minivan News asked why the ministry plans to bring a small crocodile from abroad as recently three small crocodiles had been taken by islanders and police from Maldivian waters and reportedly kept under the watch of Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF).
“There are no crocodiles alive on any islands. The only one is in the Children Park,” the Minister claimed.
However, after phone calls to the three islands; Shaviyani Komandoo, Thaa Vilufushi and Lhaviyani Naifaru – where the Kinboo’s were captured from, Minivan News found out that two of the crocodiles died while under the watch of MNDF officials and only one still remains alive.
According to an islander from Shaviyani Komandoo, following the capture of the two-foot croc from the waters, MNDF officials came to the island and took it under their watch saying it is a dangerous creature.
“That crocodile was very beautiful. Some of the islanders even wanted to keep it. But they took it away and last I heard it has died,” he observed. “Some people say it starved to death because the officials didn’t feed it,” he added.
Similarly, the six-foot crocodile caught by a Naifaru fishing boat was also taken under MNDF custody and is now dead, according to Naifaru police station. The cause of death is unknown.
The surviving crocodile was arrested by the police on Vilufushi island of Thaa atoll. Following the capture of four-foot crocodile, the island council refused to hand over it to the MNDF and provided it shelter in a makeshift water tank on the ground.
“With generous aid from some islanders we are keeping the croc well fed. A lot of children go and people go to see it,” said Sulaiman Habeeb, Deputy Director at Vilufushi Council office.
He added that the council wants to provide better condition for the crocodile, but they don’t have the budget and resources.
“Can you help us do this?” he asked Minivan News.