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MIRI: A man in northern Sarawak was snatched by a crocodile while he was walking along the river at his village and rescuers are searching for him.
This tragic incident befell Effendi Panil, 45, of Kpg Baru Lawas at 12 noon on July 29.
The Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department said that witnesses saw him at the banks of the Sungai Lawas river when he was snatched by a crocodile and dragged into the water.
The Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) and Civil Defence Unit are in an operation to search the water surface using boats to locate Effendi.
The population of crocodiles has been growing over in the past 30 years leading to more frequent conflicts with humans.
In Oct 2016, former Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said that wild saltwater crocodiles in Sarawak could be "harvested" (hunted) for commercial use.
This was after the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has approved Malaysia's proposal to "downlist" the reptile from its fully protected status to one allowing harvesting.
He said Malaysia sought the downlisting as the increased numbers of saltwater crocodiles was posing a threat to humans, especially rural people who depend on rivers (for water and transport).
Wan Junaidi said that there is demand for crocodile meat from countries like China, Thailand and Vietnam, while crocodile skin has high economic value.
However, a year later in Sept 2017, it was reported that the Sarawak Forestry Department had yet to issue licences to cull crocodiles in the state, though it has received 50 applications to-date.
Without such licences, villagers, especially those living near riverbanks, were permitted to kill a crocodile only if the reptile "posed a threat".