The sorry state of Lolong, the crocodile
BY: ERROL ABADA GATUMBATO
The capture of a giant crocodile in the town of Bunawan in Agusan del Sur province in Mindanao made it to the headlines of local and international media organizations. The croc, known to scientific community as Crocodylus porosos, is the biggest captured in the Philippines, weighing more than 1,000 kilograms and spanning at 6.4 meters. The Guinness Book of Record has recently confirmed the said crocodile is the world’s biggest in captivity. It was intentionally hunted, because of the suspicion that this croc was responsible in several fatal attacks.
The local government of Bunawan provided a shelter for the croc, and with the upsurge of curious onlookers it is now becoming a sort of a crocodile eco-park. Local officials are taking the opportunity of the crocodile’s capture and the establishment of an eco-park to boost tourism potentials and the subsequent increase in the revenue of the municipality. The croc is named after Lolong, the nickname of the hunter who died in a stroke while in a previous mission to trap this species.
The capture of Lolong did not come with amusement to all, since some concerns were already raised by advocates of animal rights and conservationists. While safety of the people was the primary motivation for such an action, led by the local government, there is now a question on the propriety of uprooting the crocodile from its natural habitat. Ashley Fruno, Senior Campaigner of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was quoted by the ABS-CBN online news saying, “The physical and mental frustrations of captivity often lead to abnormal, neurotic, and even self-destructive behaviors in animals, called ‘zoochosis. This mental illness is marked in other species by symptoms such as pacing, neck-twisting, head-bobbing, bar-biting, and other repetitive behaviors.” He added, “When you consider the immense size and power of the crocodile in question, his zoochosis symptoms could prove to be incredibly dangerous for both the staff, visitors and other crocodiles within the enclosure.” The PETA urged the release of Lolong back to its habitat.
Lolong’s captivity will not guarantee the safety of local residents, in as much that there are several other crocodiles in the site where it was captured, which is part of the more than 14,000 hectares Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary. This marsh is an important refuge of the remaining population of crocodiles. The crocodiles were first known to exist on Earth about 230 million years ago, according to the IUCN-World Conservation Union Crocodile Specialist Group. The crocodile has a widespread distribution in the Philippines before, but the indiscriminate hunting and habitat disturbance and destruction led to its extinction in many islands of the country.
Contrary to common perception, crocodiles are not actually offensive in behavior. The crocs take offense only when they are being attacked and disturbed in their own territories. This feature of crocs is no different from humans. What will you do when intruders invaded your very own privacy at home? Moreover, the Earth is carefully designed to provide each creation a specific place to dwell and co-exist with other species similarly intended for that area. Agusan Marsh is for crocs and other wildlife, and yet people invaded it and this probably gives a reason for crocs to become protective and defensive of their lives and habitat. It is therefore very important to delineate the range of crocodiles’ habitat, install warning and safety measures and if possible free it from human activities.
The other myth about crocs is that they are greedy, because of their large mouth, the reason why corrupt government officials are tagged as crocs. This accusation is unfair to crocs, because they are actually self-contained – they only eat what they actually need. The crocodiles are also important in maintaining ecological balance, because they serve as predators to other species. According to IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group, crocodilians are most active at night, and consequently, most feeding occurs between dusk and dawn. However, they are opportunists, and their preference for nocturnal activity is easily overridden if prey presents itself”.
It is quite unfortunate that Lolong has been uprooted from its home and is now separated from its fellow. I hope the attraction Lolong is creating now will not trigger additional capture of crocodiles in the wild, but will give us reflection on the actions we are giving to crocs and other wildlife.
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