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Saturday, January 17, 2009

BUJANG SENANG THE KILLER CROCODILE OF BORNEO

Guest Blogger time for Richard Freeman again. Richard has many obsessions, but one of the greatest is crocodiles - especially the really big ones. For no reason whatsoever, therefore, except for the fact that we wanted to, here is an article he wrote some time ago about man-eating crocodiles in Borneo...

The single most infamous man eating crocodile was a giant that terrorized the Lupar River in Sarawak, Borneo. His name was Bujang Senang. The name means “happy bachelor”. So the story goes he was one a much-feared human warrior who had never been defeated in battle. His wife betrayed him to his foes who ambushed and beheaded him. His spirit became a huge crocodile that haunted the Lupar River.

The first attack that grabbed the headlines occurred 26th June 1982. Bangan Anak Pali and his brother Kebir had gone fishing for shrimp. Banang had just been appointed a tribal chief. The 26th began as a happy day for him. At one point a banded kingfisher had flown across their path. In Sarawak this is considered a bad omen, much like a black cat crossing your path. But Bangan was not a superstitious man and the pair continued their trip.

The catch was poor and not wanting to return to the longhouse empty-handed Bangan climbed out of his boat and waded into the water to get closer to the shrimps. His last words to his brother were “Name utani…baka batang”, what’s that…it feels like a log?

It was not a log. Kebir said there was a thundering sound and the river exploded. His brother vanished. What little was left of him was found five days later. His death caused an outcry. Bangan was a popular man. His ancestors fought alongside Charles Brooke, the White Raja who purged the area of headhunters in the 1850s and 1860s. The newspapers ran the headline “Bujang Senang Terror” and a ten year reign of terror began.

The authorities tried to capture the huge beast by bringing in teams of sharpshooters, professional crocodile hunters, and Pawangs, Malaysian maintains. One pawing claimed to have harpooned Bujang Senang but the giant reptile had dragged his boat against the current and dislodged the spear. A six inch hook baited with a dead monkey but their quarry ate the primate and left the steel hook twisted straight. Even a hand grenade inside a dead duck was tried but Bujang Senang was having none of it. In another encounter two grenades were hurled at the crocodile but he escaped unscathed.

The killer avoided them all. But one thing did emerge from the hunt. Witnesses claimed that Bujang Senang had distinctive white markings on his back. Like Moby Dick, the crocodile soon gained an air of legend about it.

But people become complacent. Bujang Senang seemed to have vanished and life began to gradually return to normal. On September the 27, at a place not far from the first attack, Badong Anak Apong, 51 was out gathering shrimps. A massive object rammed his boat tossing him into the water. The object was none other than Bujang Senang. Badong was seized and thrashed about like a rag doll. Horrified on lookers ran to fetch hunters with rifles from a local longhouse. They estimated the crocodile to be some twenty-five feet long. All of them saw the distinctive white back. They perused the killer and fired at it from a range of only ten feet. Despite flinching the crocodile did not seem harmed and submerged taking the body with it.

Soon after a local farmer Bah Jukin bin Tapaling offered a reward of 300,000 rupees for anyone who could kill Bujang Senang but the monster had done his disappearing trick again.

Five years later on February 29th 1989 he struck again. 57-year-old farmer Berain Anak Tungging was repairing his boat in shallow water. Bujang Senang rose from the river and grabbed him about the waist. The sole witness Pandi Anak Lia was only thirty feet away from him. He heard the victim cry out “Help me I’m dying” before he was dragged off.

Some people came forward and claimed that the white backed crocodile had been around and killing for at least thirty years. Tuah Anak Tunchun a 70-year-old man said that a crocodile with the same distinctive markings killed his brother Inch Anak Tunchun in 1962. Others said that Bujang Senang’s first victim was an Iban woman killed around 1960. No one could recall her name. A second Iban called Lindang was killed shortly afterwards. Since 1960 fourteen people had been killed by crocodiles along the Lupar River. Could they all have been the work of one rogue?

On May 21st 1992 thirty year old Dayang Anak Bayang and her elderly parents were returning to their farm after visiting a longhouse. They usually waded across a small tributary but it was high tide and the stream was deep. Her parents decided to wait for low tide but Dayang was impatient and decided to wade across. She crossed once and seeing that the water came up to her chest and no higher, returned for her mother. She did not know that a huge crocodile lay submerged in the water. As she led her mother across
It lunged out of the water and grabbed her. Dayang`s mother beat the reptile with a tree branch but it would not leg go. Her father screamed for help and several farmers raced to the scene. One shot at the crocodile three times but missed.

Dayang`s brother Enie Anak Bayang was fishing downriver when he was informed of the attack. He grabbed a shotgun and paddled to the spot. He saw the crocodile and shot at it twice but did it no harm.

By noon an armed posse of twenty-five were in pursuit of Bujang Senang. They suspected he had taken his victim’s body to a deep pool along the river and stored it among the debris. They broke into two groups. The first kept watch whilst the second erected a fence of wood and bamboo across the lower portion of the river.

Enie found his sister’s body among the debris at 12.15. At 12.30 the crocodile returned to finish it’s meal. Enie shot at its head at point blank range hitting the eye. Thrashing wildly the monster submerged. As it dived another man hurled a spear that lodged in it’s back.

As the tide began to ebb the villagers followed the killer upstream the spear shaft showing above the water. They peppered it with more shots. It reached the fence and smashed through. However a little way along a large tree had fallen across the river and become stuck in the mud blocking the reptile’s way. One man ran ahead and shot at the crocodile’s head and neck forcing it to turn about and go back the way it had come. More spears were hurled but they bounced off. Bujang Senag became enraged and reared out of the water roaring, jaws agape Enie and two friends raised their guns and fired simultaneously into the crocodile’s mouth. Thrashing in a mad frenzy it bit at floating wood and other flotsam and jetsam. Finally it sank its fangs into a tree trunk and expired. The man-eating career of Bujang Senang was over.

It took four hours to haul him ashore. His length had been overestimated. At 19 feet 3 inches and weighing over a ton he was big but certainly no record holder. This species, Indo-Pacific crocodile, can grow to over 28 feet long and weigh well over two tons. The scales on his back were indeed oddly pale. But legends die hard. Many said that the white backed crocodile was not the true Bujang Senang. One man claimed to have seen a black crocodile 35 feet long emerge from the river shortly after Berain Anak Tungging was killed in 1989. Another man said he saw the same creature in the area when Dayang was killed. Many feared that the black giant would start a new killing spree in revenge for it’s smaller kin. An anonymous person wrote to the Sarawak Administrative Office stating

“Bujang Senang cannot by killed by a bullet. Only God can determine his death.”




8 comments:

Ed said...

Read your fascinating account of the undoing of Bujang Sanang. I went to Sarawak in 1983 looking for him myself after I had written a screenplay based on the story of St. George and the Dragon, where a giant saltie escapes from an Everglades reptile show in the famous 1926 hurricane to return and terrorize the locals. Soon after I finished, I saw an article about the bachelor and went down there from Japan to see if I could find him. Who knows? Maybe it was good we didn't meet. I still have photos of the sites where he took life and parts of the river where he might have gone. In a way, I'm kind of sad to see that he, like Billy the Kid, finally got caught. I hope his legend lives on. Oh. And nobody bought my screenplay. Oh well. Best wishes. Ed Lowery
Las Vegas

My Fucked Up Hypocrite Life said...

Hello there,
The story is a bit confusing. Im a sarawakian and i hail from Miri, Sarawak. The last quote by that anonymous person sayin 'Bujang Senang Cannot be killed by bullet, Only God can determined its death..' Well that is 100% correct. You cannot catch & kill a ghost my friend. :)

- Jofri

Brandon Sideleau said...

Just want to add a few comments here. First and foremost, thanks for the valuable information regarding the attacks. Secondly, as far as size goes the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) reaches maximum confirmed lengths of just over 20 feet (6 meters.) The are reports of larger individuals but none have been accurately measured or officially recorded. Even the 7 meter (23 foot) saltwater crocodile from Bhitarkanika National Park in India was not actually measured but instead based on a visual estimation (prone to over-estimation.) The largest crocodile ever measured snout to tail was a 20.1 foot individual from the Fly River in Papua New Guinea in 1980. It is probable that the species can grow to 23 feet on rare occasions, but anything larger is entering the realm of fantasy. If Bujang Senang was indeed 19 feet (his skeleton exists in Sarawak so this can be verified) then he would have been one of the longest crocodiles ever measured.

Brandon Sideleau said...

oh I nearly forgot to send it...Rom Whitaker did some great work attempting to determine "Who's the Biggest" crocodile- http://madrascrocbank.blogspot.com/2008/08/worlds-biggest-crocodiles.html

Vytas Paplauskas said...

Do you know anything about Bujang Sudin, another man eating crocodile now kept in Jong's Crocodile Farm?

WELLRANTAI said...

BUJANG SENANG STILL ALIVE, AND I HVE'BN SEEN IT WITH MY VERY EYES. AND IT TALK TO ME, ASK ME TO THAT PLACE. IT A GHOST, NOT A REPTILE.

Joe Eads said...

Well since this was back in 09 I will give Brandon a break on his measurments as Lolong had not been seen at that time. Or the one in Bhitarkanika National Park which has been filmed and Rom Whitaker a known Herpatologist states it is over 20 feet.

Also to the Author. Gustave is much more well known than Whiteback as killer crocodiles go. Whiteback also was killed pic of him is on this site. http://www.iucncsg.org/pages/Crocodilian-Attacks.html which is a crocodile specialist group.

Joe Eads said...

Whiteback is not the most notorious killer crocodile world wide. That honor would go to Gustave in Burundi.He even had a bad movie mad about him.Whiteback did kill 13 people and did get some notoriety though not as much as other crocs. Also he was killed, the Crocodile specialist group even show the picture of him.
http://www.iucncsg.org/pages/Crocodilian-Attacks.html

And as to Brandon I am assuming you posted back in 09. But Lolong has been confirmed as the longest crocodile at 21 ft. A picture taken was analyzed by actually herpatologist and is believed to be bigger than Lolong. Also Rom Whitaker a very noted Herpatologist from India has filmed the crocodile at Bhitarkanika National Park and even Rom says that is over 20 feet. Estimations from sight and slide trail measurements.