Latest Stories

Bunawan to hold funeral rites for Lolong

By , Jeannette I. Andrade

Lolong is covered with ice chunks to preserve his remains. AP PHOTO/ERWIN MASCARINAS

BUNAWAN, Agusan del Sur—This southern Philippine town plans to hold funeral rites for the world’s largest saltwater crocodile in captivity and then preserve its remains in a museum to keep tourists coming and prevent their community from slipping back into obscurity, the town’s mayor said yesterday.

The one-ton crocodile—named Lolong—was declared dead on Sunday a few hours after flipping over with a bloated stomach in a pond at an eco-tourism park in Bunawan, which had started to draw tourists, revenue and development because of the immense reptile, Mayor Edwin Cox Elorde said.

“The whole town, in fact the whole province, is mourning,” Elorde said. “My phones kept ringing because people wanted to say how affected they are.”

In a news conference, Elorde fought back tears as he recalled how the town took care of the crocodile not as a beast but like an “adopted son.”

Guinness World Records last year proclaimed Lolong the largest saltwater crocodile in captivity, measuring 6.17 meters (20.24 feet). The reptile took the top spot from an Australian crocodile named Cassius that measured 5.48 meters (17.98 feet) and weighed nearly a ton.

Lolong was captured on Sept. 3, 2011.

A nylon fishing line found in Lolong’s feces could be the cause of death, according to initial findings by an animal doctor.

Belly ballooned

Dr. Alexander Collantes, of the Davao Crocodile Park, said small pieces of plastic fishing line, which could have disturbed the normal flow of the digestive system, had been found in Lolong’s waste discharges since last December.

Collantes said, however, these were just his initial findings and that further examination through necropsy would be conducted by experts from the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) to determine the actual cause of death.

He said the abnormal condition of Lolong’s digestive system started when its belly began to balloon late last month. Its vital signs deteriorated a few days before its death.

Elorde said Lolong’s death caught the town by surprise since PAWB veterinarians had regularly visited the beast’s artificial habitat at the eco-park in Consuelo village here.

60 years old

Teary-eyed, Elorde said the town did everything to save Lolong and could blame no one for its death.

Expert studies showed Lolong was about 60 years old and could have lived 20 more years based on the regular life-span of such a reptile.

Lolong had been drawing tourists daily, generating up to P20,000 of park gate receipts a day.

Asked why the local government did not heed calls by environmentalists to return Lolong to its natural habitat, Elorde said the reptile could pose a danger to residents living in the Agusan Marsh, especially during the rainy season when crocodiles can roam freely because of flooding.

He said he was with Lolong “until his last breath.”

“I was depressed because I considered Lolong a part of my life already … I really considered Lolong as my son. It was my duty to take care of Lolong,” Elorde said.

Elorde said that after Typhoon “Pablo” struck last December, Lolong’s fecal discharge turned from white to brown. But he said a check on its feces found no infectious organism.

Elorde said experts were called to look over Lolong’s condition after a bulging lump was noticed on the right side of its abdomen. The experts then advised that the water level in Lolong’s pool be lowered so it would not drown.

At 8:12 p.m. Sunday, a veterinarian declared Lolong dead.

Named an ambassador

In Manila, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje described Lolong’s death as a loss to the country’s preservation program for reptiles, of which Lolong had been described as an “ambassador.”

Paje ordered a team of veterinarians and biological experts sent to Bunawan to determine the cause of death. The team is composed of representatives from PAWB and the national museum.

“The team will help ensure that the necropsy would be carried out in a manner that would make it possible to contribute Lolong’s remains to taxidermy,” Paje said.

He said the team would work closely with Elorde and with representatives of the National Geographic Channel.

Lolong had been named ambassador of the program to educate people on the importance of crocodiles in the ecosystem.

In a radio interview, Collantes said there was a noticeable change in Lolong’s habits, particularly in its food intake, after Pablo struck.

Collantes attributed the change to the cold temperature which, he said, was far from a crocodile’s temperature comfort zone of 30 to 33 degrees Celsius. The cold could have affected Lolong’s appetite, he said.

Also, Collantes said, there was a noticeable growth on the right side of Lolong’s stomach, which could have been caused by a nylon cord—used in fish nets—that it must have ingested while it was still in the marshlands.

He said the experts were looking into two possible causes of death: extreme weather conditions or ingestion of a foreign object that was not digested.

Collantes debunked claims by an animal rights group that Lolong’s life-span had been shortened by its captivity.

“I do not think so. Pangil (Fang) is still alive and he was from the wilds,” Collantes said, referring to the 5.5-meter-long crocodile—the second-largest found in the country— which is a major attraction at the   Davao Crocodile Park.

Lolong was captured in a river in Bunawan after it attacked livestock. The 2009 death of a 12-year-old girl in Lake Mihaba was blamed on Lolong.

Nathaniel Escriver, a guide at the park, could not hide his emotion when the crocodile was dying. “I could not bear to see him dead,” he said, adding he wept when their “beloved brother” died.

“Just as our town was beginning to be popular, Lolong passed away,” he said. He said the other caretakers were “very emotional and speechless” when Lolong was pronounced dead.

Lolong’s death is bound to have an impact on the town’s economy.

“Lolong’s presence was able to augment our family needs,” said Jenny Amog, 25, among the vendors who have found lucrative incomes while doing their trade near the park. “We were able to buy a motorcycle that we use to ferry passengers coming in and out of the park.”

Elorde said that in the year and four months that Lolong was a tourist attraction, the park earned at least P2 million.

Remains to be preserved

Elorde said local officials had agreed to make their town a popular tourist destination by preserving the crocodile’s remains and displaying them in a museum.

The crocodile was named Lolong, after a government environmental officer who died from a heart attack after traveling to Bunawan to help capture the beast. The crocodile was blamed for a few brutal deaths of villagers before Bunawan folk came to love it.

The giant reptile has come to symbolize the rich biodiversity of Agusan marsh, where it was captured. The vast complex of swamp forests, shallow lakes, lily-covered ponds and wetlands is home to wild ducks, herons, egrets and threatened species, like the Philippine Hawk Eagle.

Tribal ritual

Villagers plan to perform a tribal ritual, which involves butchering chicken and pigs, as funeral offerings to thank forest spirits for the fame and other blessings the crocodile has brought to the town, Elorde said. A group of Christians would separately offer prayers before the autopsy.

The crocodile’s capture in 2011 sparked celebrations in Bunawan but also raised concerns that more giant crocodiles might lurk in a marshland and creek where villagers fish.

The crocodile was captured with steel cable traps during a hunt prompted by the death of the child in 2009 and the disappearance of a fisherman. Water buffalos have also been attacked by crocodiles in the area.

Elorde said he planned to have Lolong preserved in a museum so villagers and tourists could still marvel at the sight.

“I’d like them to see the crocodile that broke a world record and put our town on the map,” he said.

Lolong belonged to the species Crocodylus porosus, or the Indo-Pacific crocodile, which experts say can live up to a century. It is critically endangered in the Philippines, where it is hunted for its hide.—With reports from Dennis Jay Santos, Inquirer Mindanao, AP and AFP

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Animals , Biodiversity , Crocodile , ecotourism , environment , Lolong , News , Philippines - Regions , Regions

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Gigi Reyes back to face charges
  2. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  3. In the know: Gigi Reyes
  4. SC suspends proctor in 2011 bar exams
  5. Senator Pimentel backs German think tank’s stand vs dynasties
  6. Bar proctor suspended for photographing test papers
  7. Collector Danny Garcia says Inquirer worth more than news
  8. Meteor shower to light up PH skies
  9. What Went Before: Enrile denies Gigi Reyes was ‘other woman’
  10. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  5. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  6. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  7. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  8. Massive infra spending set
  9. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  10. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  9. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  10. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia


  • 8 killed in Finland parachutist plane accident
  • $57-B mega plan to solve Metro’s mega woes
  • Aquino vows to step up fight against corruption
  • Santiago scoffs at rushing defense pact for Obama visit
  • Former solon, 2 others sanctioned for unfair labor practice
  • Sports

  • PH pug Hipolito Banal decisions Colombian in Aiba
  • Former Pacquiao sparmate Porter keeps IBF title
  • Grueling 2014 Le Tour de Filipinas hits road
  • ICTSI Tour big hitters have edge at Sherwood
  • What Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather could do
  • Lifestyle

  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Korean animation comes of age
  • Entertainment

  • Easter musings
  • Solenn in shorts
  • Unmerry mix of attention-calling moves on ‘Mini-Me’ TV tilts
  • Persistence pays off for The 1975
  • Special section in LA fest for Filipino films
  • Business

  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Bataan freeport investment pledges up 1,302%
  • Golden Week
  • Bourse to woo Cebu stock mart investors
  • Supper power
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • Search for Etihad passengers launched
  • Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion
  • Tim Tebow’s charity hospital in Davao seen to open in 7 months
  • OFW died of Mers-CoV in Saudi Arabia, says family
  • Aquino, Obama to tackle US pivot to Asia during state visit
  • Marketplace