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Residents of the Bunawan township in Philippines Agusan del Sur Province, are breathing a little easier since Saturday, following the capture of a 21-foot, 2,365 lbs salt-water crocodile that has been a menace for the last decade and, believed to be responsible for the death of at least one fisherman earlier this year.
The hunt for the monstrous creature, believed to be the largest salt-water crocodile to be captured live, began in earnest about 3 weeks ago, after the villagers witnessed it devouring a water buffalo.
Led by wildlife official Ronnie Sumiller who had been hunting nuisance crocodiles for over two decades, five brave villagers began the endeavor by setting up four traps near the stream where it had been last seen. That however, did not work too well since the giant creature destroyed the traps, devoured its dead animal bait and took off.
Undeterred, they set up four new traps made from steel cable with another tempting animal carcass as bait. This time, the giant croc stepped right in and could not wriggle its way out. The reptile was so heavy that it took 100 villagers to haul 'Lolong' as they have named it, up with rope from the creek to a clearing. From there, it was lifted up with a crane into a truck which transported it to a sanctuary where Lolong will remain, until its new home, a new eco tourism park opens in the area later this year.
However, Lolong's capture is not the end of the villager's angst. There is a strong suspicion that a bigger, even more dangerous reptile is still lurking in the area. That's because when Mr. Sumiller induced the captured crocodile to vomit, there were no human remains to be found, leading him to conclude that another reptile may have been responsible for the fisherman who vanished.
The team has now set up 20 steel cable traps with animal bait and are hoping that the second one too will get entrapped like Lolong. Meanwhile, villagers have been asked to be cautious and avoid the marshlands at night.
Philippines is home to many species of crocodiles, including the world's most endangered freshwater variety - the crocodylus mindorensis, only 250 of which are known to exist in the wild. Also on the endangered list is the larger saltwater type or crocodylus porosu to which Lolong belongs. With only about 1,000 of the species left, killing them is strictly prohibited and offenders can incur up to 12 years in prison and a fine of one million pesos (about $24,0000 USD).
Saltwater crocodiles, also known as estuarine or Indo-Pacific crocodiles are the largest species of all living reptiles and can live up to 100 years. Native to some parts of Northern Australia, Eastern India and Southeast Asia, they average between 13-18ft in length and 400-1,000 kg in weight. Some, like the recently captured specimen obviously far surpass the average. While they don't particularly seek out humans, they are opportunistic predators, which means they devour whatever is readily available.
Resources: nydailynews.com, guardian.co.uk, thetandd.com, wikipedia.org