BUTUAN CITY ? A 12-year-old elementary school pupil was killed while two others survived after a crocodile attacked a boat ferrying them in Lake Mihaba, a crocodile sanctuary inside the Agusan Marsh in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur.
It was the first reported crocodile attack against human settlers living near the sanctuary, home to two species of fresh water and salt water crocodiles.
Ruel Hipulan, administrator of the Save Mindanao Volunteers, a nongovernment organization, which runs the school where the victim studied, identified the fatality as Rowena Romano, a Grade 1 pupil.
Hipulan said Romano and two other classmates were riding a boat on their way back home when the incident happened at around 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Hipulan said the crocodile, which he said measured about eight feet long, towed the boat and dragged Romano into the water.
?It was really gruesome, Romano?s head was cut off but we are able to retrieve her body found floating in the water the following day,? Hipulan told the Inquirer by phone.
The two other pupils survived by swimming for safety.
Hipulan said school officials remain puzzled by the rare and drastic behavioral change of the crocodile, noting that the animals have grown accustomed to human contact with settlers in the area.
?The pupils used the lake as their route going in and out of our school. Maybe, that crocodile was really hungry or pregnant,? he added.
Hipulan aired his appeal to the government and crocodile experts to help them capture the crocodile because their classes have been disrupted, as well as the livelihood of villagers who rely on fishing.
?The kids are afraid to go to school and the villagers who rely on fishing for livelihood are afraid to venture out,? he added.
He said many settlers have claimed to have seen the culprit crocodile lounging in the lake, one of the 62 lakes comprising the sprawling Agusan Marsh.
The girl is a member of the ethnic Manobo tribe who live in floating homes in the Agusan Marsh.