See you never alligator
Okay so alligators are only native to the United States and China. Alligators and crocodiles come under the group of crocodilian so they are somewhat related, thanks also to their similarity in appearances. Well, I am about to talk about crocodiles which have made headlines in Brunei for the past week or so. Two people including a four-year old boy have fallen victims to two separate crocodile attacks, within a space of days apart.
Personally, I have had a very close encounter with these not-that-gentle- creatures. On a way to do a filming for a Tv documentary, my crew and I have to cross a river to reach Kg Belabau in Ulu Tutong, which is the furthest village in Tutong. I heard this village has been deserted now as no one lives there anymore. Anyway, all the way from Bandar to the jetty in Tutong, my witty cameraman never stopped cracking jokes, only to be join by the same level-headed soundman and our driver. I became their audience, laughing my gut out.
It was already five-thirty in the afternoon when we reached the jetty. A boatman whom I have already booked earlier to ferry us across the river, was already waiting for us. We were to spend a few nights at the village to film the documentary. The boatman, a resident of Kampong Belabau itself was maybe in his 30’s, strong-built and smiled all the time. The boat was not your typical boat but the traditional long and narrow boat call temuai. This type of boat is made that way so that its easy to manoeuver the winding river in the rural areas.
Our boatman was a man of a few words. He just smiled when we asked questions or talked to him. The only words I remember until now coming from his mouth was for us to be careful. In half an hour, it was pitch black as it get dark quickly in rural areas. By then, my crew was in total silence; they must have gone tired with the long journey or from the jokes they made. I kept glancing back at our boatman who was right behind me. He just smiled. God, I wish I knew why he smiled.
Have you heard that silence can be deafening? Well, the silence was killing me but as I was not that familiar with the area, I just sat still and prayed the journey would be over soon. Suddenly the boatman stopped paddling. He kept quiet. This time he didnt smile. I signalled him what’s wrong but as expected, he didnt utter any word. I closed my eyes trying to enjoy the stillness, if there is anything to enjoy. It was just a mere second that I blinked my eyes when I thought I heard some splashing not far from our boat. Suddenly I realised that there were many red dots on both sides of the river banks. I gasped and looked at the boatman. He syhhed me while putting a finger on his lips. For the rest of the journey, the boatman let the current took control of the boat. After what seem like ages, we finally reached the village. I glanced at my watch, it was almost seven in the evening.
When we reached the jetty, my crew ran as fast as they could, up to the jetty and on to the ground. Then they laughed. Boys! I didnt find that funny as that’s still one of the top scarriest moments in my Tv life. The village headman came to greet us. I immediately asked him what were those red dots. His answer: the eyes of the crocs at night time. And the splash? The boatman told the headman who in turn informed me that two huge male crocs were swimming alongside our boat, one of them made a splash as it slid under our boat to get to the other side.
Thanking God for the safe journey, I made sure I would not be very near the river for the rest of the assignment. But then river is part of the residents’ lives so I have no choice. Very early the next morning, my ever-cheerful cameraman said that he has found a good location to film the river activity – where else but by the riverbank. I recced the area and had to agree with him. Soon, women, young girls and children came out from the longhouse carrying clothes in pails and buckets and towels. It was actually a lovely morning. The water was really cold and I was really amazed how the residents could stand the coldness of the water. Nope, they dont have water-heaters, its a river.
Now what made me write this post is this interesting part which relates to the crocodiles. Some parts of the river banks were high enough for the young children to do their somersault. I guess they know we were filming so they wanted to show off but honestly they were very good at making the acrobatic feats and jump to the river. Everytime they wanted to jump in they said something. At one stage I was trying to understand what those words were and in the end I just couldnt contain my curiosity that I asked the young girls clad in sarong. The girls said that everytime they want to jump in to a river, they will shout: ‘Anak Bayo’ meaning son or child of a crocodile. I dont need to know why they must say that.
Now this article in today’s Borneo Bulletin has many interesting facts about crocs. For a start, the report said quoting the Brunei Museums Department – champion of protecting endangered species in Brunei – 34 species have been listed under the protected List of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The estuarine crocodiles, locally known as ‘Buaya Katak’ that inhibit the rivers in Brunei are under Appendix 1 of CITES. No one is allowed to ‘hunt, kill, capture, collect, disturb or own their eggs, horn, head, teeth, tusk, bones, nails, fur (didnt know crocs have furs), skin or any other body parts. Offenders could face a year in prison and slapped with a $2,000 fine in Brunei. One exception of the rule is when these animals prey on humans or enter the turf of humans, these crocs may be captured or even killed, said the report.
Another related croc story is that Crocs, those crayon-coloured sandals which have survived the global recession, may be facing some problems too. More here. Have you got a pair or two of Crocs? “Anak Bayo” indeed.
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