There is a tale that strikes terror into the hearts of those who hear it. It is a tale of a giant white back crocodile in Sarawak, that is said to have terrorised the waters of Batang Lupar.
The fall of a formidable warrior
It all began with Simalungun, a fierce Iban warrior famous not only around Sarawak’s Skrang River but also up to Batang Lupar in what is today Sri Aman. Simalungun was infamous for killing countless enemies during his head-hunting trips.
Simalungun’s enemies believed that he was invincible and could not be hurt with the parang (large, heavy knife commonly used by the Dayak of Borneo). To uncover the secrets of his invincibility, Simalungun’s enemies kidnapped his wife and brought her to Batang Lupar, where Simalungun then showed up to rescue her and kill her kidnappers at the same time.
Unfortunately, Simalungun’s wife was killed with a spear as soon as she was released. Enraged, Simalungun fought his enemies all the way to the bank of the Batang Lupar river. That was when they discovered that he became vulnerable as soon as he got near the river.
Birth of a toothy tyrant
At his most vulnerable, Simalungun was killed with spear and arrow. He was impaled along with his wife, and their bodies were left on the bank of Batang Lupar. Eventually when the water rose, their bodies became submerged.
After searching endlessly to no avail, his relative, who was an immensely powerful shaman, dreamt about Simalungun and his wife. In that dream, Simalungun told the shaman he wanted revenge. The following day, the shaman went to the river where Simalungun and his wife were killed. With his powers, the shaman sought help from the ancient Iban gods to transform Simalungun into a giant white back crocodile bent on seeking revenge on his killers as well as their future generations. The crocodile believed to be Simalungun was named Bujang Senang, after the Senang River in Batang Lupar.
It was neither a typical lizard nor a dinosaur, but Bujang Senang may as well be called Terror Lizard. For the longest time, the 20-ft white back saltwater crocodile terrorised the people of Batang Lupar and beyond, claiming many lives since 1941. It is not known exactly how many fell victim to Bujang Senang during its decades-long reign. However, between 1982 and 1992, there were 14 recorded attacks.
In the first attack made known to public through media reports, Bangan anak Pali of Rumah Pali longhouse in Sri Aman was snatched by Bujang Senang two days before the official ceremony of his appointment as the headman of the longhouse.
Bangan and his brother Kebir were looking for prawns in the Batang Lupar river on that fateful day. At midday as they were still looking for prawns, Kebir saw a kingfisher flying past. He began feeling uneasy as a kingfisher flying past was believed to be a bad omen. And so, he called out to Bangan, who was still insistent on hunting for more prawns.
Soon after, Bangan decided to turn back. But just as he was walking towards Kebir, he stepped on what he thought was a piece of sunken log at the bottom of the murky river. “Nama utai tok? Baka batang…” (What is this? It feels like a log), he asked Kebir. But before Kebir could even answer him, there was a huge splash… almost a thundering sound and suddenly Bangan was nowhere to be seen.
Moments later, Bujang Senang was seen surfacing with Bangan’s dead body in its mouth. Kebir jumped on the crocodile and caught its tail but could not hold on to it. It was then that he saw the white stripe on the crocodile’s back.
A five-day search for the crocodile was held, with the police and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) involved in the search. At the end of the search, only the upper half of Bangan’s body was recovered, with no sign of the crocodile or the rest of his remains anywhere.
By 1991, Bujang Senang had reportedly killed 13 victims. The following year, Bujang Senang attacked again, this time at Pelaban River in Batang Lupar.
Dayang anak Bayang and her mother were heading upriver towards their paddy field not far from Pelaban River. The water was rising at the time and the skies grew dim by the time they finally got to the riverbank. Dayang helped her mother climb ashore before following suit. But just as Dayang was about to get out of the water, she was pulled under in a flash. Dayang screamed and her mother was shocked, horrified at the sight of her dear daughter being dragged away from the riverbank by a huge crocodile.
Dayang’s mother screamed for help. Dayang’s brother Enie, who was already at work at their paddy field rushed to the scene, along with some of his friends, and began a search for Bujang Senang. The residents of Rumah Bayang also joined in the search. Unfortunately, Dayang’s body had been pulled to the bottom of the river. Mandau, who was with Enie at the time, along with Jupong and Enie’s cousin Sidi Imam, began reciting a locator spell. Two hours later, Enie found Dayang’s body.
Enie and the others proceeded to hunt down Bujang Senang. And when they finally found the crocodile, they started shooting at it. Even after several gunshots, it was nearly impossible to defeat Bujang Senang. Mandau began reciting a spell and throwing a spear at its head, but it broke.
With the water receding, Bujang Senang headed back to Batang Lupar. Unfortunately for the crocodile, there was a huge log in its way and Bujang Senang was trapped. The men continued to shoot the crocodile and jabbed it with spears. Realising its impending defeat, Bujang Senang stood on its tail and opened its mouth, unleashing a loud roar and ready to strike. Enie and the others saw the opportunity to take down Bujang Senang and released multiple shots into its mouth. Bujang Senang thrashed about and not long after, the notorious killer crocodile that had claimed its final victim on that fateful day, was finally defeated on May 12, 1992.
After being brought back to the longhouse after a 4-hour journey by foot, the villagers realised that they had finally slain the legendary Bujang Senang, looking at the distinct white stripe on the reptile’s back.
Today, those who wish to see for themselves just how big Bujang Senang was can still do so. A man named Johnson Jong brought back the head of Bujang Senang with him after it was shot dead. The crocodile’s skull is currently put on display, immortalised, and encased under glass at Johnson’s famous Jong’s Crocodile Farm in Siburan.
But with all that transpired and Bujang Senang’s reign of terror finally ended, some still believe that it was not Bujang Senang that was shot dead. Some even believe that the monster croc still patrols the murky waters of Batang Lupar, reaching the unimaginable size and ready to strike anytime.