Bujang Senang; The Tale Of A Viscious Man-Eating Crocodile In Batang Lupar, Sarawak

in #steemstem4 years ago (edited)

Picture By Alias0591 - Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

If you are born in the 90s, chances are you got the opportunity to watch a documentary made by Steve Irwin and Terri (his wife) about various wildlife creatures including a vicious reptile; the crocodile. This lizardlike creature belongs to the order of crocodylia which are equipped with a set of razor-sharp teeth, tough hide and a powerful tail. I have written an article about gharial in the past, and you might notice that they have an almost similar appearance to a crocodile or to an alligator except for the prominent snout. Despite all of the similarities, they are in fact different in many ways.

  • It is practically easier to compare the differences between a crocodile or an alligator with a gharial but not between a crocodile and an alligator. Both of this creatures are much difficult to be differentiated from one another.

  • An alligator would have a shorter and wider U-shaped snout when compared to a crocodile which has a long, narrow and V-shaped snout. Unlike a crocodile, the size of the upper jaw and the lower jaw of an alligator are quite different. The upper jaw is generally wider compared with the low jaw, with depressions over the upper palate to fit in the teeth of the lower jaw when they close their mouth shut. The size of the upper and lower jaws of a crocodile is approximately the same, therefore, their teeth would fall inside or exposed outside when they close their mouth.

  • Both of this creatures are equipped with organs for excreting salts (salt gland) but only the one which possessed by the crocodiles are functional. You might have seen a crocodile, swimming in the sea before but never an alligator. They can't tolerate salt water as the salt glands they possessed are non-functional.

Picture Source - Pixabay

Most of the crocodiles can be found in Australia, Mexico, Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka and some part of America. They are carnivores who prey on a variety of creatures which include birds, molluscs, amphibians, fish and sometimes, the other species of smaller crocodiles. Their prey would be determined by various factors such as:

  • Morphological features: Crocodile with a long snout would prey on fish, mainly. Larger species of crocodile such as the saltwater crocodiles would eat a bigger prey such as buffalo and deer.

  • Age: When they were born, they were only up to 20 centimetres in size. It is impossible for them to prey on anything big so they eat primarily small fishes and invertebrates. After two years, they grew exponentially which can be up to 1.3-1.5 metres. This significant growth spurt would allow them to hunt bigger animals such as sharks, cats and elephants.

  • Species: Different species of crocodiles prey upon different kind of animals. Some crocodiles, like the gharial, has a morphological feature which is unique to the species that would allow them to hunt fish efficiently.

Even though a crocodile possessed a set of sharp teeth, they are not capable of tearing anything; the teeth were only meant for preventing their prey from escaping. Crocodiles have the strongest biting force (up to 22,000 N) ever measured when compared to the other animals. Combined their jaw strength with the set of sharp teeth, it is nearly impossible to survive after a single bite. The muscle arrangement surrounding the jaws were suited for clamping prey which makes it difficult to withstand their biting force. Their jaw's muscles are hard, almost as hard as bones. Even though they have a great biting force which could subdue any animals into submission, their muscles which are meant to open the jaw are quite weak, so they can be easily disabled if their snout were tied.

History of Crocodile's Attack in Sarawak, Malaysia

Picture Source - Public Domain Pictures

How would you feel if you witness someone you loved being dragged into the river by a giant crocodile measuring approximately 6 metres and you are incapable of doing anything? There are a lot of news which entailed such tragedy and believe me, it creeps me out to read about people who are being attacked by crocodiles and some of their bodies were found, floating around the river, in a perfect condition excluding the biting mark. It's like, they were killing people for a reason other than wanting to eat people. There must be a reason of why this particular creature starts to attack human. Let's take a look at some of the attacks which occurred last year:

  • In 23rd of February 2017, an 18 years old girl who was waiting for her exam result was killed by a 6 metres crocodile, while accompanying her family, bathing somewhere around Sungai Tapang in Ulu Peking, Sarawak. The crocodile's attack was unexpected and her family along with other visitors can only stare at her helpless body being dragged into the river. Her body was found floating approximately 2 kilometres away from the site of the attack. Click here to read the rest of the news.

  • In 22nd of May 2017, a male teenager was killed by a crocodile after he fell into a river located in Kampung Kawi, Bintangor, Sarawak. He was walking along the river with his friend when suddenly he was grabbed and dragged by an unidentified creature at 6.45 pm. His body was found approximately 500 metres from the site of incidence and there are a couple of crocodile's teeth marks found on his left leg. Click here to read the rest of the news.

  • In 14th of July 2017, an Indonesian who worked in a local estate located in Betong, Sarawak, was attacked by a crocodile while checking his fishing rod, somewhere along Sungai Pelasan. He went fishing with one of his friends, and when he was grabbed by the crocodile, his friend tried to pull him but failed. Click here to read the rest of the news.

  • In 27th of September 2017, a 31 years old man was attacked by a crocodile while he was fishing with his cousin at Sungai Kuala Besar, Kuala Hulu Tambak, Pusa, Sarawak. His cousin was unable to do anything as the attack was sudden even though he was just sitting 1 metre away from the victim. When a search and rescue operation was conducted by the local fireman, they found a few pieces of body parts belong to the victim which include his head, his left leg and his right arm. Click here to read the rest of the news.

These are some of the documented cases of crocodile's attack which took place in Sarawak. Who knows how many cases are there or if anyone else has been attacked by crocodiles and was not being reported. I mean, if you are walking alone and suddenly attacked by a crocodile, no one will know, right? People might assume you were being abducted, killed or anything else related to that. Sarawak has always been well-known for its hornbills and not many people knew about all of the crocodiles which inhabited the area.

Bujang Senang; Legend or Truth?

Public Domain Pictures

People might have heard about Gustave, one of the most popular man-eating crocodile which measured around 6 metres long. It has killed up to 300 people and it had never been caught until today. There are many traps that were set up for Gustave but the location it appears was unpredictable. It can terrorise a single location for a week and then disappear for a year and then came back hunting again. In Malaysia, specifically in Sarawak, the most prolific man-eating creature was a crocodile named Bujang Senang. It was not known whether this creature does truly exist or not, but there are a few stories which described some unusual characteristics and features about this crocodile. It has a white stripe staining the hide situated at the top of its body which make it prominent and easily recognised by the locals.

The number of people which has been attacked by this particular creature was not known. There is lack of documentation about people being attacked by a crocodile with a white stripe on its back but who has the time to analyse what kind of observable characteristic that the attacking crocodile possessed. According to the story told by the locals, Bujang Senang was once a man, a warrior who seeks revenge for his wife who has been killed by his enemies at Batang Lupar river.

Simalungun or Lungun is a great warrior who lives in Sungai Skrang, Sarawak. He was feared by his enemies and every time he went to a battle, he will return with a few heads to be kept as collections which are called mengayau in Iban's tradition. This symbolised strength and they usually kept the head of a man who they killed (not randomly took dead people's head).

According to the story, Lungun was known to practice mystic arts which caused him to become invulnerable to any method of killing. People who practised this kind of ritual would have to fulfil certain conditions in order to keep its perk. His enemies kidnapped his wife and brought her to Batang Lupar river while blackmailing her to tell them, what kind of taboo that Lungun has to break, in order for them to be able to kill him.

When Lungun reached Batang Lupar river to rescue his wife, his enemies released her but before she could reach Lungun, she was impaled by a javelin which killed her instantly. This action caused Lungun to become enraged and he started to kill his enemies. Throughout the battle, his enemies realised that Lungun became vulnerable as soon as he stepped into the river. Lungun was then cornered into the river and be killed. His corpse along with his wife was left floating around the Batang Lupar river and as Lungun broke the taboo of getting into the river, his corpse was cursed and transformed into a giant crocodile with a white stripe on its back.

Bujang Senang has been terrorising Batang Lupar for quite sometimes, killing the descendant of his killers. The termed Bujang which directly translated meant a bachelor was thought to be misplaced as Lungun had a wife. In Iban's culture, the word bujang is used as a sign of respect for a great person or a warrior. The word senang was adopted from the place where the crocodile was usually found, Sungai Senang.

Some Of The Attacking Event

Picture Source - Pixabay

Even though Bujang Senang has been terrorising Batang Lupar since 1940, its existence was only known to the public in 1982. Bangan is one of the victims of Bujang Senang. Bangan was supposed to be the leader of his tribe in 1982 and 2 days before his formal inauguration, he decided to invite his brother, Kebir to catch some fish for foods in Sungai Batang Lupar. While waddling through the muddy river, Bangan stepped onto something hard which he thought some woods at the bottom of the river. When Kebir trying to approach his little brother, a loud sound was heard and Bangan suddenly disappeared from his sight.

Later, a big crocodile appears with a dead Bangan in between its jaws. Kebir tried to save his brother but failed. He noticed the crocodile has a white stripe on its body and after informing the local police, a continuous searching operation was conducted. The remains of Bangan was found 5 days later ( only his upper body parts). After that particular event, the state police launched a specific operation for hunting crocodiles which have been attacking humans in a few rivers located in Sarawak which include Sungai Batang Lupar. The operation was called Operasi Buaya Ganas.

In 1984, a young man named Badong was grabbed by a crocodile with a white stripe on its back while catching some prawns in Sungai Stirau, Batang Lupar. His demise was witnessed by a few villagers who happened to stand just a few metres from Badong but they can't do anything about it. Badong's corpse was found 2 days later just a few kilometres from the origin of the attack. A hunting operation was conducted by the local police to hunt for Bujang Senang but they failed.

Picture Source - Pixabay

In 1987, Berain, a local who inhabited near the Batang Lupar river was caught and dragged by Bujang Senang into the river while being witnessed by his nephew. All of the past documented attack along with this new one has made Batang Lupar the scariest place to be living in. The leader of the tribe, Tuah, believes that the crocodile which attacked Berain is the same crocodile which killed his little brother in 1962. He believed that the curse was real and Bujang Senang was in fact, a resurrected Lungun. All of the victims have some sort of direct or indirect relations with the enemies of Lungun. That seems plausible but hey, it might be wrong. If it is true, they somehow thought that Bujang Senang is a highly intellectual crocodile who targeting its victim for a reason.

In 1992, Bujang Senang was killed after a few shots made by the locals. Before it was cornered into its own death, it killed one of the locals who try to cross the Batang Lupar river, dragging her into the bottom of the river before her body was found 2 hours later. The dead crocodile was then carried into the village before its head was chopped from its body. They noticed the white stripe on top of its body and they were convinced that this is Bujang Senang, the crocodile which has been terrorising the Batang Lupar river.

Of course, there were some speculations that they killed the wrong crocodile but there were a lot of crocodiles living in the river of Sarawak, to begin with. They might be right and they might be wrong but even so, the number of people being attacked by crocodiles were quite significant in this part of the country. Bujang Senang might be one of the most popular man-eating crocodiles in Sarawak, but it is nothing compared to the other notorious crocodiles like:

  • Bujang Samarahan
  • Bujang Tisak
  • Bujang Belawai
  • Bujang Subis
  • Bujang Seblak

There are approximately 20,000 crocodiles which inhabited rivers in Sarawak. The state government decreed that 60% out of the total estimated population can be hunted for their skin or meat. Even so, the locals were afraid to kill the crocodile as they believed them to be some kind of manifestation of the river's spirit. There were a lot of efforts which have been done to control the population of the crocodiles in Sarawak but some experts believe that crocodile's attack on humans is due to pollution of the rivers.

References and further reading materials


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I think I would go on a shooting spree and kill every single crocodile I laid eyes on if anything like what you describe happened to any of my relatives. Terrible. And I know it's not right, but I wound't be able to control myself, so I understand the villagers who organize hunts for them.

These creatures are beautiful yet deadly
How you came to know the word "Gharial" as far as I know this is generally used in INDIA.

Oh c'mon @micro24, they are ugly!Look at its eyes and skin lol. Anyway, beauty they say lies in the eyes of the beholder!

Well, I knew that word when I was working on my article about a crocodile with an elongated narrow snout. Some literature referred them as gavial, I'm comfortable with gharial, for now. :)

Interesting anecdotes. Bujang senang killed 300 people!? Really unbelievable!

Do crocodiles belong to dinauserous era? I came to know that they haven't evolved for long.

I think you misread. Gustave is the one who killed 300 people, not Bujang Senang.

Do crocodiles belong to dinauserous era? I came to know that they haven't evolved for long.

Yes, they existed since the Cretaceous period. Some fossils evidence suggested that they were much bigger than they really are today but hey, lucky for us they were smaller, isn't it?

Yes, I commented the wrong name.

Obviously we are lucky to have no big crocodiles now!

Oh my! I just "read" discovery channel right now.

I somehow know that crocodiles are dangerous but i never knew one can be this fatal! Damn!

Hahaha. Maybe I was inspired by the way Discovery Channel presented their facts. :P

The most important thing is, that you should never forget to bring sacrifices for Sobek, the crocodile god. Or his minions will eat you.
Hail Sobek!

I never knew Sobek is the crocodile god.

It's amazing what you can learn by playing video games :)

I played video game, but Sobek is a sniper in warframe. Lol.

I was always wondering how crocodiles actually perceive us, humans - as a threat or as a prey, did you find something about that?

Not yet @scienceangel. It never crosses my mind. I might consider writing about that.

I didn't know there are crocodiles in Malaysia. I have never seen one when I was in Malaysia.

Really? Hahaha. Maybe you haven't been to Borneo.

Great post once again, @chloroform! I'm just glad I live nowhere close to any crocodiles or alligators after reading this.

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