Maewo Crocodile - A Prodigal Crocodile Returns Home

26 April 2003

An international crocodile rescue mission ended successfully today at Sola on Vanua Lava when a 3.6 metre 300kg saltwater crocodile was returned to his home in the Selva River.

It is believed the crocodile was washed from Vanua Lava in a cyclone in 1998 to Ambae and then was further pushed to Maewo in 2002. For a year the villagers of Maewo have been afraid of the rogue reptile as it cruised the western coast of the island.

Through the resources of the Vanuatu Environment Unit and Vanuatu Protected Areas Initiative (VPAI), the services of Steve Irwin and his Australia Zoo team were enlisted to help the crocodile.

Mr Russell Nari, the Deputy Director of the Environment Unit, said today, "Our main concern during this whole project has been to maintain the well being of both the local people and the crocodile and with today's successful capture and relocation, everybody has been delighted with the result.

"I would like on behalf of the Environment Unit and the Government of Vanuatu to extend our greatest gratitude to the chiefs and people of Maewo, the Torba Provincial Council and chiefs and people of Vanua Lava, Mr Roy Hills Director VPAI, Jamie Dillion Peace Coprs Volunteer and above all Steve Irwin and team from Australia Zoo for a great partnership in this rescue."

Mr Roy Hills, Director of VPAI, said, "The estuarine crocodile is an endangered species in Vanuatu and through the assistance of Steve Irwin and his team, the people of Maewo no longer need to be fearful of entering the sea and the crocodile has been saved from certain death."

Mr Steve Irwin, head of the Australia Zoo International Crocodile Rescue Unit, despatched his senior crocodile experts Mr Brian Coulter and Mr Toby Millyard in February 2003 to assess the problem. With the aid of a specially designed and built crocodile trap, he and his team were able to capture the reptile and, through the help of VanAir, transport the animal from Maewo to Vanua Lava.

Steve Irwin said, "I am so proud of the people of Vanuatu, particularly of the islands of Maewo and Vanua Lava for being part of this international conservation mission. The successful relocation of the crocodile is the greatest message that we can give to the world about the protection of an endangered species and, through my television program, the whole world will learn how compassionate the people of Vanuatu are in allowing the rescue operation to take place and at the same time showcase the beauty of the islands. I would like to thank Russell Nari and Roy Hills for making this project run so smoothly and so successfully."


Top jaw ropes attached ready to pull crocodile from trap (click to enlarge).

Crocodile given a shot of antibiotics (click to enlarge)

Crocodile travels from Maewo to Vanua Lava in a VanAir Twin Otter (click to enlarge)

Crocodile gets its freedom in the Selva River (click to enlarge).

VPAI would like to highlight the important contribution made by the following:

Russell Nari / Vanuatu Environment Unit

Gaïa Fisher

Phyllis Ganileo / Wan Smol Bag Theatre

Philippe and Sandrine / Philippe Metois Photography