Dying in captivity-A A +A
Monday, February 18, 2013
SUNDAY night, I was so tired that I went to bed early. Just when I was about to finally dozed off, I got a text message. It was from my friend, Darrell Blatchley, the American curator and owner of D’Bone Collector Museum Inc.
“Lolong died,” Darrell wrote in his text message. Who is Lolong, I asked myself. It was not until I read the next message that I came to know who he was referring to: “I will go to Agusan tomorrow at 4 a.m.”
Darrel talked about the giant crocodile – named “Lolong” after the hunter who led the hunt – which was kept in the nature park of barangay Consuelo in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur. It was placed in an 8,610-square foot (800-square meter) pen with 4-foot (1.2-meter) -high concrete walls topped by welded wire.
The Philippines became the toast of the world when a crocodile was caught in a Magsagangsang Creek in Barangay Nueva Era in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur on September 3, 2011. The reptile measured 20 feet and three inches (6.17 meters).
In November of 2011, Australian crocodile expert Dr. Adam Britton of National Geographic sedated and measured Lolong in his enclosure. He confirmed it as world’s longest crocodile ever caught and placed in captivity.
The Guinness Book of World Records hailed “Lolong” as the world’s largest crocodile caught alive. The previous record-holder is Cassius, which is kept in the crocodile park in Australia’s Northern Territory. Cassius is 17 feet and 11.75 inches (5.48 meters) long.
I went to bed not knowing what really caused the death of Lolong. So, in the early morning the following day, I checked the internet to find out. Philippine Daily Inquirer confirmed the death through these words:
“The 20.4-foot (6.12-meter) saltwater crocodile died at its pen in Consuelo village, Bunawan town, Agusan del Sur province, around 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, according to Mayor Edwin Elorde.”
It was Dr. Alexander Collantes, animal doctor at the Davao Crocodile Park, who declared it dead. But the cause of death was still unknown. “The croc did not eat his usual meal late last month. Experts will still investigate the cause of death,” Rowena Bunawan, media coordinator of Bunawan, told Inquirer.
According to Bunawan Mayor Edwin Cox Elorde, the crocodile was last observed “as very active” on Saturday night, and its death over the weekend was somehow unexpected. “We checked him up last Jan. 23 and we thought his condition would improve. We’re very saddened this happened,” the mayor was quoted as saying.
The Inquirer report quoted the mayor that the resort in upland Consuelo village where the crocodile had been kept was drawing hundreds of eager local tourists daily, generating up to P20,000 of gate receipts per day.
When “Lolong” was still alive, wildlife advocates were pressing for the crocodile’s release back into the wild. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals argued that if the crocodile remains in captivity, it is likely to develop abnormal behavior and endanger its caretakers and visitors.
But local officials have deemed that releasing the crocodile into the wild was an “irresponsible” move. Mayor Elorde said about 1,300 residents who rely on fishing in the area could be attacked by the crocodile once it is released into the 13,910-hectare Agusan marsh again.
The mere thought of a crocodile makes some people shudder with fear and revulsion. A rumor about the presence of a crocodile in a river is enough to make people shun the area.
According to the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, crocodiles actually have no any willful inclination and intention to attack humans. In fact, there are many wildlife sanctuaries in the country wherein crocodiles live peacefully together with human beings.
It is only when human beings try to disturb the habitat the crocodiles are living in that they attack people. With the current population of more than 92 million and the land area being constant, there is no way people won’t claim those areas currently being inhabited by crocodiles.
The World Conservation Union listed the Philippine crocodile as “critically endangered.” Estimated number of population in the wild is only 200.
The Philippines is home to two kinds of crocodiles: the Philippine crocodile (“Crocodylus mindorensis”) and the saltwater crocodile (“C. porosus”). Both are listed by the Convention of International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) under Appendix I, which means trade of species and subspecies is strictly prohibited except for educational, scientific or research and study purposes.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 19, 2013.