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Experts to investigate cause of giant crocodile’s death

LOLONG, the world’s biggest crocodile in captivity, died at its pen in Consuelo, Bunawan, Agusan del Sur.

The report of the 20.4-foot saltwater crocodile’s death on Sunday night was confirmed by Director Theresa Mundita Lim of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB), who said that a team from the PAWB and the Crocodile Farming Institute (CFI) were immediately sent on Monday to conduct a necropsy on the giant reptile.

“It’s sad.  It’s very unfortunate,” she said.

Lim said the team that will conduct a necropsy on Lolong is led by veterinarians Steven Toledo of PAWB and Glen Rebong of CFI who will be tasked to determine the cause of death.

“We want to know how Lolong died and, perhaps, learn more about him,” Lim said.

Lolong was declared as the biggest of such species ever to be captured and held in captivity by the Guinness Book of World Records.

She said, Lolong, a male Crocodylus porosus, holds a lot of mystery, such as its real age, its gigantic size which could be determined by a study of its genetic makeup.

How Lolong grew that big is one of the biggest mysteries, according to Lim.

Experts said that such size was highly unusual for a crocodile living in Agusan marsh.

An average saltwater crocodile in Agusan marsh grow up to 6 to 8 feet.

“A DNA [deoxyribonucleic acid] sample will be taken by the team. Perhaps now we can have an accurate estimate of how old Lolong is,” she said.

Lolong, named after a local crocodile expert in Agusan, has been in captivity since September 3, 2011. It was captured in Agusan Marsh and was put in a cage in Bunawan. Lolong measures 20.24 feet, or 6.17 meters long, and weighing 2,370 pounds, or 1,075 kilograms, instantly became a favorite tourist attraction in the province and generate hundreds of local band foreign tourists every day.

It took more than 20 people to subdue the reptile, which has reportedly destroyed two steel cages used as trap to capture him by local folks.

The report of Lolong’s death around 8:30 p.m. on Sunday came from Bunawan Mayor Edwin Elorde, who said the reptile has refused to feed on chicken, its favorite meal, since last month.

The mayor said that its caretaker noticed that the reptile’s belly grew big, and has been motionless for several days.

The last time Lolong was checked by a veterinarian was on January 23, when he appeared to be sick.

The local government of Bunawan plans to preserve Lolong’s body to be displayed at a museum.

Meanwhile, the animal welfare group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) said the death of Lolong is “tragic” but “not surprising.” 

Lolong’s death, according to Peta, should motivate the government to move away from capturing animals from the wild to keep them locked in cages.

“While the exact cause of Lolong’s death is still being investigated, scientific studies have shown that captive animals die younger than their wild counterparts. Lolong suffered and died because people wanted to make money off his captivity,” the group said in a statement.

Peta said Lolong spent his last 18 months alone in a concrete pen, instead of in the Agusan Marsh, where he belongs.

Crocodiles are “fascinating animals with complex and multifaceted lives,” the group said.

“They [crocodiles] are nocturnal and, in their natural homes, feed primarily at night. Crocodiles shun contact with humans, and captive crocodiles like Lolong never become ‘tame,’” Peta added.

The group added that “no zoo can come close to providing what even small crocodiles need, much less a crocodile the size of Lolong,” because crocodiles are hardwired to roam freely, seek out mates and hunt for food.

“These genetic imperatives are compelling, and the way that they are fulfilled in the wild cannot be replicated in captivity. When you consider the immense size and strength of Lolong, there is no doubt that being contained in a cramped enclosure caused him extreme distress and misery.”

In Photo: Townfolk gather around a huge crocodile named Lolong, following its capture on September 4, 2011, by residents and crocodile farm staff on a creek in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur. (AP)







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