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This tough old croc is still swimming – and will swim yet


Crocodile 1960sWHEN I WAS A KIAP based at Kiunga on the Fly River in the late 1960s, I shared a house with Joe Nombri.  He had been banished to the remote Western District because of his political activities.

One of the things Joe and I used to do was go out on the river at night and shoot crocodiles.  There were several reasons for doing this and with which we justified our activities. 

One was to supply meat for the local kalabus and the other was to make money for the local social club by selling the skins.

Joe has gone to that great patrol post in the sky where, no doubt, he is regularly stirring up the bos kiap and I have done a complete reversal on my attitude to guns and shooting things.  Nevertheless, back then we shot crocs.

Most of Joe and I shot were crocs of the fresh water variety but occasionally the odd salty would cruise up to Kiunga.  They were particularly dangerous and weren’t averse to nabbing the odd human being.  They were also harder to shoot.

More than once we managed to bounce a .303 bullet off their skull and watched in awe as they simply shook their head and swam away.

The purpose of this rambling introduction is to point out the toughness of these particular beasties and their ability to survive no matter what is thrown (or shot) at them.

It is also a roundabout way of approaching a subject that it pains me to address.

As many of you will now realise the Crocodile Prize literary contest also took a hit in 2013.  The good news is that it too has shaken its head and swum away.  In this case it is paddling towards 2014.

While we don’t want to dwell on what happened this year we feel that PNG Attitude readers, especially those who submitted entries to the competition, are owed an explanation.

Suffice it to say that the Crocodile Prize suffered the fate of many similar undertakings in Papua New Guinea, despite the dedicated efforts of a few hardworking individuals. 

Those good people know who they are, as do the people who let them down so badly by trying to turn the competition to their own personal advantage.

However, as noted above, the hoary old bugger will be swimming into 2014 with nothing worse than a slight headache.

There will be some changes in the way the competition is run and readers will be kept posted.

Meanwhile we can report that the 2013 entries were eventually paraded before the judges and a selection of winners has taken place.  These will be announced in PNG Attitude on Monday.

We are currently in the process of assessing what funds are available for prizes.  These will, of necessity, be limited - and we have had to suspend some categories where it will not be possible to award prizes.  However, the core categories of short story, poem and essay prizes will be awarded.

We are also able to announce that there will be a 2013 Crocodile Prize Anthology published.  This will also be done in a limited way but it will be available on Amazon and as an e-book on Kindle and there will be a few hundred hardcopy versions available for sale.

The anthology will feature the best of the entries received in 2013, including the work of a number of new and exciting writers.

We hope that you as readers and in particular as sponsors will bear with us as we transition to 2014 and our new format.

Please keep watching this space.


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Harry Topham

Phil - One has to be very careful when dealing with pukpuks as such relicts of the past have not survived for so long without learning a few tricks or two.

Their ability to lie submerged just below the murky surface but at the same time able to watch activities along the banks awaiting the possible arrival of a possible victim who might stray into the killing field.

Unfortunately for most victims of croc attacks very few survive to utter those famous words, 'once bitten twice shy'.

Steven Gimbo

Thanks Phil and all,for the wonderful job with the Croc Prize! It may be down but its not out yet and with people like you, I know we will shake the pellets of the .303 off and keep going! Good job. Well done!

Phil Fitzpatrick

Actually I wasn't aware that the "freshwater" crocs with the narrow snout were 'novaguinae' and not 'johnstonii'.

I often wondered what the freshies in the estuaries were doing in such salty environments. Now I know.

Should we read anything into the fact that the New Guinea crocs are genetically different to the Papuan crocs?

Bernard Yegiora

Phil is using the analogy to give us a picture of what is to come in the not so distant future in relation to this important literary competition.

The whole issue is like a scene in the animated film "Meet the Robinsons". Never give up, every time you fall just pick yourself up and keep on moving.

Thus, learn from this experience and keep on moving.

Francis S Nii

Justin, the animal crocodile is not the issue in Phil's article. He is only using it to make a point here.

If Phil wanted to write about the different species of crocodile in PNG, it's not a difficult thing to do - simple research and it's done.

Justin Friend

Point of order; there are no "freshwater crocodiles" in New Guinea. Crocodylus johnstonii, the freshwater crocodile, simply does not exist in New Guinea.

The two species of crocodile that are found are the Crocodylus porosus, commonly and incorrectly referred to as the saltwater crocodile, and the the Crocodylus novaguinae, the New Guinea crocodile, which is what I assume you refer to as a "freshwater crocodile".

The New Guinea crocodile may certainly be more common in freshwater but that is simply because they can not compete with the porosus variety who dominates the "saltier" environments.

It is quite incorrect to call the New Guinea crocodile, an extremely close relative of the Philippine and Siamese crocs, a freshwater crocodile as they are quite capable of living in salty/estuarine environments.

Incidentally the two populations of Novaguinea, the Fly River population and the Sepik population have been identified as being genetically quite separate.

Many Australians assume that the two species are the same or similar to Australia's dual species predominately divided along the fresh/salt lines but this is quite incorrect.

Robin Lillicrapp

Just put $50 in to augment prize pool.
Keep up the good work.

Francis S Nii

Thanks Phil. It's good that the .303 has caused a shake up so we can be cautious and take a different course in 2014.

Important thing is that the .303 hasn't killed the beast and this in itself is justice and a reward for the writers both old and new comers.

Many thanks to you, Keith, and others on the rescue mission.

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