Australian presenter Matthew Nicolas Wright together with his fellow crocodile observer Chris Wilson have officially joined the Central Sulawesi Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA Central Sulawesi) to assist in the rescue of a wild crocodile that has had a motorcycle tyre stuck around its neck for years in Indonesia’s Palu river.

The participation of the two Australians is based on a decree issued by the Environment and Forestry Ministry on Monday to BKSDA Central Sulawesi, into whose operational control the crocodile rescue team has been entrusted.

“After consulting with the ministry’s biodiversity conservation directorate general, both of them were allowed to immediately join the rescue team,” Haruna, a BKSDA Central Sulawesi official, told reporters on Monday.

Wright and Wilson were reportedly still in Jakarta and would immediately head to Palu to join the rescue team. The rescue operation will start when the two arrive.

In his Instagram post on Sunday, however, Wright was seen walking along the river bank upon arriving in Palu on his first day. He said in the post that he would fly to Jakarta on Monday to meet and coordinate with Indonesian officials.

While waiting for Wright, Haruna said the team was preparing all the necessities including equipment and the most appropriate strategy to catch the crocodile and release the tyre from its neck.

The 4m long reptile was first seen swimming with the tyre around its neck in 2016.

The crocodile was regularly spotted swimming in the water connecting the Palu river to Palu bay. Officials and conservationists previously tried but failed to catch it.

Locals believe the crocodile was frightened off because every time there was a rescue attempt, dozens of curious Palu residents swarmed around the river to watch the process.

In 2018, M Panji, better known as “Panji the Adventurer”, an animal handler and tamer who is known from his stint on the Adventures of Panji national television show, attempted to catch the crocodile but failed.

Last month, Central Sulawesi governor Longki Djanggola warned the agency to immediately rescue the crocodile because the motorcycle tyre had been stuck in the crocodile’s neck for too long and might endanger its life.

“I am surprised. I have repeatedly told [the agency] to rescue the crocodile, but the instruction seems to have been ignored. This time I emphasise that we must act immediately or I will act myself,” said Longki.

Following that order, the agency held a contest for anyone willing to catch the crocodile, promising a prize as a reward, as a result of its limited resources.

However, the contest was later cancelled after the agency failed to gain a positive response, so it prepared a special team with the assistance of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

BKSDA Central Sulawesi then coordinated with several parties volunteering to join the rescue team, including crocodile observers Wright and Wilson.

The team includes members from the police and it has installed nets at several points in the Palu river in the past week, which have so far failed to capture the crocodile.

“We might be able to capture the crocodile if people do not gather around to watch it because it might make the crocodile afraid to come to the surface,” said Haruna.