Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Fishery at Kasetsart University in Bangkok, Dr Thon Thamrongnawasawat, posted on his Facebook page this morning (Aug 30) “There is news of a saltwater crocodile at Bang Tao Phuket. A foreigner named Mike went on a walk and noticed it, so he ran back home and called his son to record the crocodile. The clip is very clear that it is a big crocodile, with a length of at least 3 metres.
“This spotting is not the first time, in 2013 it was reported that villagers had seen a crocodile at Mai Khao Beach, but then the story went silent,” Dr Thon said.
“Before asking if it is the same crocodile, let’s look at its origin. It is a crocodile found in the Andaman Sea. There previous evidence of crocodiles at Koh Tarutao. Has anyone been to the Malacca Canal? Remember that inside there are ‘crocodile caves’, so is it possible to have crocodiles remaining in the wild? The chance is very unlikely.
“Of course, there are still some saltwater crocodiles, maybe around Burma or Sumatra. It’s possible that it can travel to Phuket, but it’s difficult. Another possibility is that it may be a crocodile from a farm or other feeding place, which is likely as they are hybrids of both fresh water and saltwater,” he explained.
“Crocodiles can be dangerous. Even though they may not hurt people regularly, there are still some cases,” Dr Thon noted.
“However, now as storms are causing big waves, the crocodile will not come to shallow water. It will float away from the large waves. People should not be afraid of the water, unless if people swim out far. For example surfers should be careful. But if you ask me straight, I’m not very worried as I have been studying crocodiles in Australia for many years.
“Normally crocodiles that attack people live in canals along mangrove forests that connect to the sea. The chances of crocodiles attacking people along the coast are very slim,” he added.
“I believe that people in the area will continue to manage the situation. People should keep an eye on canals near the sea. We might need to watch over Phang Nga Bay too because if the crocodile swam through Sarasin, getting into the mangrove forests of Phang Nga is easy.
“Crocodiles may come to sunbathe on the beach at low tide, but if not found, we must keep watch for a while. At the same time, it should be checked with nearby farms (including neighbouring provinces) whether there are crocodiles missing or not,” he said.
“Crocodile care on farms is the duty of the Department of Fisheries. Normally, a large crocodile would have a chip embedded. We also need to monitor the farming system and care, to ensure that it will not be a problem in the future.
“I have seen the clip and can confirm it is definitely a crocodile,” he said.
“In the wild, the crocodile situation is quite good. However, Bang Tao is a tourist destination. It may harm tourists or locals who go out to fish by the shore, especially for families with small children, it is a scary thing. It is bad for the local community and the crocodile would be better off released elsewhere,” he concluded.
An official from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) told The Phuket News yesterday (Aug 29) that he believes the crocodile caught on drone video footage swimming off the coast of Bang Tao Beach on Phuket’s west coast last week was likely to have escaped from a crocodile farm. (See story here.)