Was Wiley smuggled?

2013-06-10 00:00

COULD Wiley, the Umgeni crocodile that was killed last month, have begun as a baby croc in a bathtub, smuggled by a policeman from the Zambezi?

One reader recalls that a bunch of baby crocodiles were found in a bathtub by a senior officer inspecting the single quarters at Durban police barracks. The culprit was told to get rid of them and he did … in the Umgeni River near the golf course.

Wiley, the three-metre crocodile who was shot and killed last month by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife officials, was suspected to be the last remaining crocodile in the Umgeni River. Numerous attempts to catch him had proved futile and he was considered to be a threat to public safety.

But his death sparked an outcry as he had developed quite a fan club. Fishermen and canoeists may now feel safer paddling and walking around the banks of the Umgeni River as he is no longer, but his legend lives on.

Many people are wondering how he came to be there. The Umgeni is not the natural habitat of crocodiles.

Wildlife experts claim that crocodiles can walk for many kilometres when their own habitat is threatened and others say that the crocodiles could have been washed down from the St Lucia area during flooding.

But police officer Captain Martin Rautenbach, who has been following the saga, contacted The Witness to offer a possible explanation. Rautenbach, who lives in Hibberdene on the South Coast, said that as a young man he was stationed in Durban. He was sent to live in a block of flats near the beachfront.

Rautenbach said: “The first night after I unpacked, I was surprised to find someone keeping four baby crocodiles in the bath, the guy had just returned from border duty.

“In those days, people were posted to do border duty on a regular basis in Namibia’s Caprivi strip and Zimbabwe [then Rhodesia]. This guy brought them back with him from wherever he was doing border duty at the time.

“They were small and probably not older than two or three months, but a few days later we had a barracks inspection and he was caught. Our superior officer told him he had a few hours to get rid of them or face charges.

“I later returned from work to find that the crocodiles were gone. Apparently they were released by the ‘owner’ behind the golf course. I was also told that he had more than just the four crocodiles in our bathroom, but that he had quite a few in other bathtubs elsewhere in the block of flats.”

Rautenbach said he was told that some of the reptiles were on the Bluff in a pond to the east of the Mobil Refinery, near the old buildings where the old “riot unit” was stationed.

He added: “I have not heard of any crocs having been seen in that area, but the ones in the Umgeni started to be noticed about 10 to 15 years later.”

Rautenbach spent a fair bit of his free time fishing in the Blue Lagoon area and he believes the crocodiles would have had plenty to eat. “I saw lots of large prawns and shrimp living on the sides of the river next to the bank. They were easy to catch for bait, so the little crocs would certainly not have had a problem finding food and must have grown up in that area, moving up and down the river for food.”

Rauntenbach is sad that the big crocodile was shot, and he is not the only one. See this footage of Wiley the crocodile here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkrkOuAfbQM

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