After various international rescue efforts over six years, a large Indonesian crocodile with a motorcycle tire stuck around its neck in Indonesia has finally been freed, reports Reuters' Abdul Rahman Muchtar.
First spotted in 2016, the female saltwater crocodile became known by locals in the city of Palu as "buaya kalung ban," which means "crocodile with a tire necklace." It’s unclear how the tire got stuck on the crocodile in the first place, though it could have been from people trying to catch it to keep as a pet or to sell its skin, reports Mohammad Taufan for the Associated Press. Saltwater crocodiles are a protected species in Indonesia.
Conservation officials have been trying to free it since then, even offering a reward in 2020 for anyone who could rescue it. That year, American outdoor adventurer and TV presenter Forrest Galante tried to catch the croc for a documentary called "Impossible Croc Rescue"—but was unsuccessful. Australian crocodile wrangler Matthew Wright also tried and failed. He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Greg Jennett that the reptile "definitely is one of the most difficult crocodiles I've had to catch in my career.”
Then, in January, a self-taught reptile wrangler, Tili, decided to try his luck. Tili, a bird catcher and trader, says in a Reuters’ video that he’s saved snakes, crocodiles and other reptiles in the past.
“I have experiences and skills in catching animals, not only birds, but farm animals that are released from the cage,” Tili tells AP. “I believe I can rescue the crocodile with my skills.”
Per Reuters, Tili set up a trap using rope tied to a log and tracked the crocodile for three weeks. After two failed attempts, the croc was caught on the third try.
“For all of the efforts Tili has done for protected wildlife and being the kind of animal lover he is, that’s a great milestone,” Haruna Hamma, who heads Central Sulawesi province’s conservation agency, tells AP.
Galante, who watched the rescue live on FaceTime, says on CBC Radio One that the reptile responded “like any crocodile does, which is, you know, acting like they're practically dead and lethargic. And then, all of a sudden, snapping to life and seeming very unprovoked or uninterested in the fact that he's just had this, this crazy alien-like experience,” he says “He, you know, sort of just slowly wriggled down to the water and grumbled a bit and headed out back into the river.”
He tells the outlet that the tire would have begun to asphyxiate the animal and stop it from eating, eventually leading to its death if not for Tili’s rescue.
“I didn’t learn this anywhere,” Tili tells Reuters. “I just can't stand to see animals hurt.”