POSTED: 7:36 a.m. HST, Jul 1, 2012
MANILA, Philippines >> Guinness World Records has declared that a huge crocodile blamed for deadly attacks in the southern Philippines is the largest in captivity in the world. The giant reptile has brought pride, fear, tourism revenues and attention to the remote town where it was captured.
The saltwater crocodile named Lolong, which was captured last September in Bunawan town in Agusan del Sur province, measures 20.24 feet (6.17 meters) and weighs more than a ton, Guinness spokeswoman Anne-Lise Rouse said in a statement seen Sunday. The reptile took the top spot from an Australian crocodile which measured more than 17 feet (5 meters) and weighed nearly a ton.
Bunawan Mayor Edwin Cox Elorde said the news sparked celebrations in his farming town of 37,000 but also fostered concerns that more giant crocodiles might be lurking in a nearby marshland and creek where villagers fish.
"There were mixed feelings," Elorde said by telephone. "We're really proud because it proves the rich biodiversity of our place but at the same time, there are fears that Lolong may not be alone."
Lolong has become the star attraction of a new ecotourism park and research center in the outskirts of Bunawan and has drawn thousands of tourists since news of its capture spread. Elorde said his town has earned 3 million pesos ($72,000) from the modest entrance fees at the park, with most of the money being used to feed and care for the crocodile and for park maintenance.
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje welcomed the Guinness announcement and the growing attention being given to the crocodile, saying it would help people realize the biodiversity of their surroundings and the need to protect it. He said he would recommend that the government help Bunawan become an ecotourism destination.
The crocodile was captured with steel cable traps during a three-week hunt after a child was killed in 2009 and a fisherman went missing. Water buffalos have also been attacked by crocodiles in the area, officials said.
About 100 people led by Elorde pulled the crocodile from a creek using a rope and then hoisted it by crane onto a truck. It was named after a government environmental officer who died from a heart attack after traveling to Bunawan to help capture the beast, Elorde said.
Elorde said he saw a bigger crocodile escape when Lolong was captured and villagers remain wary of fishing there at night. He said he has formed a new team of hunters and is seeking government permission to start hunting that crocodile.