The crocodile, now being kept in an enclosure at the marine life research centre at Baan Laem Sai in Mai Khao, Thalang, was caught on July 29 near the rocks off Koh Kata, just offshore from Layan Beach, after it eluded capture for 11 days.
The confirmation that the crocodile is a saltwater species now allows the Department of Fisheries to decide where the crocodile is to be relocated to, Gov Norraphat explained at the Governor Meets the Press conference at Phuket Provincial Hall today.
“DNA tests have confirmed that the crocodile is a saltwater species (Crocodylus porosus). Now the Department of Fisheries will set up a committee to decide what to do with the crocodile.
“This is not in the power of the province to decide,” Gov Norraphat said.
Phuket Fisheries Chief Kowit Kao-ian noted at the meeting, “Phuket people want the crocodile to be released back into the wild, but it will not be in Phuket. We need to keep people safe from crocodiles and we don;t want to go chasing crocodiles again.”
Mr Kowit said that experts believed the crocodile was likely to a ‘saltie’ when it was caught, but had the DNA tests conducted to be sure.
“There was a variation of the scales common with cross-species, or crocodile freshwater hybrids (C.porosus x C.siamensis), which meant that further genetic tests were required to confirm precisely which species the crocodile is,” he explained.
A team of experts from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Mahidol University took blood and tissue samples from the crocodile on Aug 15 in order to conduct the DNA tests, he said.
The team noted that the crocodile measures 256cm long from its snout to the tip of its tail. Its torso measures 123cm long and its tail 80cm long, with its jaws measuring 56cm long.
“The crocodile is healthy, strong and responsive when prompted,” Mr Kowit said.
“It has minor wounds which occurred during the capture and transport, and some and the fresh abrasions from the concrete enclosure (where it is now being kept),” he added.
“We are providing treatment for its wounds, and during our examinations we noticed that the crocodile has moss on top and underneath both its head and torso, which is usually indicates that the crocodile has been in a standing water for a long time before entering the sea.
“This is a rare occurrence in natural crocodiles, but it is always present in crocodiles,” he said, without clarifying whether officials still believe that the crocodile had escaped a private enclosure. A belief that prompted a crackdown on registering crocodiles kept in private possession along with threats of heavy punishments for any persons found illegally keeping unregistered crocodiles.
However, Mr Kowit did point out, “The crocodile accepts chicken as a meal, but does not eat fish, which indicates that (chicken) is a familiar food that it has eaten before.”
The problem of the crocodile not being having a microchip implant to identify it has now been rectified, Mr Kowit added.
A microchip has now been implanted on its left side before the tail, with the microchip number 900012000580231, he said.
“From the blood samples collected the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Mahidol University team has confirmed that the crocodile is in good health, with no infections.
“Overall they give the crocodile a body condition score of 3/5. We are now administering vitamins to the crocodile in order to build up its muscles,” he said.