Agusan del Sur town mayor on Lolong’s transfer: No wayBy Dennis Jay Santos
DAVAO CITY, Philippines—The mayor of Bunawan, Agusan del Sur, said Saturday he would vigorously oppose a plan by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to transfer Lolong, the world’s largest crocodile in captivity, to the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City.
“We would never agree to that,” Mayor Edwin Elorde told the Inquirer by telephone from Bunawan.
He was reacting to a statement by Environment Secretary Ramon Paje that his department was studying the feasibility of transferring Lolong, the 20.3-foot-long saltwater crocodile captured in Bunawan last year, to the 22.7-hectare park in Quezon City to give the capital a new tourist attraction.
Mundita Lim, director of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, said there was no legal issue in moving Lolong to Metro Manila as the reptile supposedly belonged to the national government.
Both Paje and Lim acknowledged, however, that they would first have to obtain the mayor’s permission to make the transfer as the town of Bunawan itself was developing a park to hold the reptile, which was bringing in some tourism revenue.
In Saturday’s telephone interview with the Inquirer, Elorde said he would vigorously oppose the plan. Elorde said he had not been formally informed of it and learned of the plan only from media reports.
“There is no official request yet and they have not yet asked if we (Bunawan local government) would agree or not,” he said.
Elorde said he was to meet DENR officials next week but Lolong’s transfer was not on the agenda.
“I will first have to consult my constituents but if you ask me personally I really won’t agree,” he said.
Lolong was named after crocodile hunter Ernesto “Lolong” Conate, who succumbed to stroke days before his team captured the crocodile in the Agusan Marsh.
Elorde said Lolong should stay in the town because Bunawan residents exerted tremendous efforts from capturing the reptile to building it a large pen in the town’s eco-park.
Besides, Lolong has proved to be some sort of a cash machine for the once sleepy town, he said.
“Business has started to grow. There are now many transport vehicles and even a modest hotel is currently under construction,” Elorde said.
“Lolong is actually a blessing for us,” he said, adding that the local government earns from eco-park entrance fees an average of P10,000 a day.
Elorde said the money raised from Lolong’s viewing would be used to build a wildlife research center in the town.
He said the Agusan Marsh, where Lolong was captured, is rich in wildlife and remains attractive to the academe and scientists.
Elorde said they were also hoping to catch an even larger croc than Lolong that was sighted in the marsh.
“This one is much larger than Lolong …. I personally saw it when we captured Lolong,” Elorde said.