A wild crocodile in Indonesia that was trapped in a tyre for more than five years has been rescued, freed from its rubber ring and released back into the wild.
Conservation workers have been trying to lure the stricken saltwater crocodile from a river since 2016, after residents of Palu city on Sulawesi island spotted the animal with a motorbike tyre wrapped around its neck.
But it was a local resident who snared the 5.2-metre (17ft) long reptile – regularly seen sunbathing in the Palu River in central Sulawesi – from its tight squeeze late on Monday.
Tili, a 34-year-old bird-seller, used chicken as bait and ropes to catch the animal at the end of what he said was a three-week rescue effort, before dozens of locals helped to drag the crocodile to shore and cut the tyre around its neck.
“I just wanted to help, I hate seeing animals trapped and suffering,” said Tili, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, .
His first two attempts to rescue the animal failed because the ropes were not strong enough to contend with its weight, he said, before turning to nylon ropes used for tugging boats.
“I was already exhausted so I let them finish the rescue. The crocodile was unbelievably heavy, everybody was sweating and getting very tired.”
The animal was released back into the water after the rescue to relieved cheers from locals.
Conservationists believe someone may have deliberately placed the tyre around the crocodile’s neck in a failed attempt to trap it as a pet in the archipelago nation that is home to several species of the animal.
Tili beat the authorities to the capture because they lacked the proper equipment for a rescue in the river, which houses more than 30 other crocodiles.
“Yesterday was a historic day for us, we are grateful the crocodile was finally rescued and we appreciate the locals who showed concern for the wildlife,” said Hasmuni Hasmar, head of the local conservation agency.
The reptile made headlines in early 2020 when the local government promised a reward to anyone who caught it and removed the tyre, but later called off the contest over fears it could endanger the animal’s safety.
But the local conservation agency said Tili was in line for a prize after his daring plan paid off. “We will award Tili for his effort in rescuing the wildlife,” Hasmar said.