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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Captured crocodile seen to boost town's tourism

DAVAO CITY -- The biggest crocodile captured along a creek in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur on Sunday will soon become the "biggest star" in a future ecotourism park to be built in the town by the local government.

Villagers and veteran hunters ensnared a 20-foot saltwater crocodile (not freshwater as earlier reported) over the weekend after a three-week hunt along a creek in Bunawan town, where terrified villagers have reported at least one deadly attack by the huge reptiles.

The Municipal Government of Bunawan has no plan to transfer the captured reptile to Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre. It is now being held at the village of Consuelo.

The giant crocodile weighing 2,365 pounds (not 385 pounds as earlier reported) was captured following reports that some residents and livestock animals have gone missing for months now.




Photo courtesy of Bunawan Vice Mayor Sylvia B. Elorde.



It is said to be the biggest reptile to be caught alive in the Philippines in recent years. Wildlife officials were trying to confirm whether it was the largest such catch in the world, said Theresa Mundita Lim of the government's Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau.

"Ang plan sa Local Government Unit (LGU) sa Bunawan kay himuon nga usa ka tourist attraction diri sa amoa (The plan of the LGU in Bunawan is to make it as one of the tourist attractions here)," Bunawan Vice Mayor Sylvia B. Elorde said in a text message to Sun.Star Davao.

Elorde said they already have considered the safety of the residents when they decided to keep the crocodile in captivity.

"Dili pud siya maka-cause ug danger sa gibalhinan kay naa siyay cage (The crocodile will no longer pose danger since it has been caged properly)," she said.

She said that in the future, the large reptile will be featured in an ecotourism park that will be built to increase awareness of villagers and potential tourists on the vital role the dreaded reptiles play in the ecosystem.

Three men from the Palawan Wildlife Rescue Centre or the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre led the team that captured the crocodile.




Photo courtesy of Bunawan Vice Mayor Sylvia B. Elorde.



But after capturing a one-ton crocodile that could be one of the biggest caught alive in the world, officials said Tuesday that they are hunting for an even bigger beast that may be lurking in the creeks of Agusan del Sur.

The Guinness World Records lists a saltwater crocodile caught in Australia as the largest crocodile in captivity, measuring 17 feet 11.75 inches (5.48 meters). Saltwater crocodiles can live for more than 100 years and grow to 23 feet (seven meters).

Wildlife official Ron Sumilier, who has hunted "nuisance crocodiles" for 20 years and led the team behind the capture in Bunawan, said a search was under way for a possibly larger crocodile he and villagers have seen roaming in the farming town's marshy outskirts.

"There is a bigger one and it could be the one creating problems," Sumilier said.

"The villagers were saying 10 percent of their fear was gone because of the first capture," Sumilier said. "But there is still the other 90 percent to take care of."

Backed by five village hunters he has trained, Sumilier has laid 20 steel-cable traps with animal carcass as bait along the creek where the first crocodile was caught and in a nearby vast marshland.

Sumilier said he found no human remains when he induced the captured crocodile to vomit.

He said Bunawan officials also summoned him two years ago after a huge crocodile attacked and ate a child from a capsized boat in the marshland. The killer crocodile was not found at the time.

Philippine laws strictly prohibit civilians from killing the endangered crocodiles, with violators facing up to 12 years in prison and a fine of P1 million.

The world's most endangered freshwater variety, crocodylus mindorensis, is found only in the Philippines, where just about 250 are known to be in the wild.

About 1,000 of the larger saltwater type, or crocodylus porosus, like the one captured in Bunawan, are scattered mostly in the country's southern swamplands, wildlife official Glen Rebong said. (Sun.Star Davao/With AP/Sunnex)
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