Lolong: World's Largest Crocodile in a Mini Pond!

(UPDATE as of February 10, 2013: "Lolong, the world's largest crocodile in captivity died on  Sunday, February 10, around 8:00 PM, in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur, as confirmed by Mayor Edwin "Cox" Elorde.)

Lolong, the world’s largest crocodile in captivity at 20 feet and 3 inches belongs to a province of notable records.
Agusan del Sur province in Northern Mindanao, Philippines is home to Agusan Marshland, one of the largest marshes in the world and declared with significant international importance in the Ramsar Convention (the Convention on Wetlands). It is the 4th largest province in the country.  The province is also the second poorest in the country next to Zamboanga del Norte.
Lazy Lolong, the largest croc, loves to sleep

It was a sunny mid morning when we arrived at Bunawan Eco-park via the more than one hour ride from Bislig City in Surigao del Sur. Upon entering the 30-hectare compound we were accorded to the parking area by locals working for the park. The white van turned brown and the passengers felt dizzy after the ride proving how rough the road was. But it was a fun ride, nevertheless. Thanks to the Tinuy-an Falls and Enchanted River experience from previous day that we dreamed of while sleeping in a riverside hostel in neighboring Bislig, Surigao del Sur.
Our visit to Bunawan Eco Park was part of our five days roam around the tourist destinations in CARAGA region.
Before entering the gate, park visitors are advised to watch a short audio-visual presentation. The AVP narrates the timeline of the quest to capture Lolong, the fear of the residents of marshland against the crocodiles and the local government’s opposition to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ attempt to transfer the giant reptile to Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City.
Watching the AVP before entering the eco-park
Lolong, an Indo-Pacific or Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) estimated to be 50 years old, was captured September last year in Bunawan creek after three weeks of operation. When he was finally captured by the trap that he broke twice, Lolong has to be taken out from the water by about 100 people. His title was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records six months after the capture.
So how does Lolong look like? He looks like a big crocodile. Hehehe. The croc’s tail had my attention for a while. It reminded me of my elementary notebooks printed with illustrations of dinosaurs. Yes, boy, he is really big. That, however, isn’t obvious with the croc just lazily lying there without a human by his side for size comparison.
This is not a dinosaur's tail 
The authentic croc-skin
The AVP tries to justify why Lolong has to be captured. He was the suspect in the deaths and eating of a farmer and a 12-year old girl. Lolong is also among the suspects in the disappearance of several carabaos (water buffaloes) in the area.
Say hey, loley!
The name Lolong originated not from one of the croc’s victims’ as earlier believed. It is named after Mr. Ernesto “Lolong” Conate, lead crocodile hunter from Palawan who died of stroke three days before his latest trap succeeded in immobilizing the giant reptile. Poor Lolong…the human. And yes, the reptile.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and animal rights activists argued that Lolong needs to be returned to his natural habitat in the marshlands. But for the local government that has earned from his presence as a tourist attraction (a la carnival) and the locals who fear croc attacks, there is no need to debate whether he should be enjoying his freedom in the wild or in that cage shaded by the leaves of the lone small palm tree.
Too big, too small
Yeah, in captivity.
The local government is reportedly planning a P200 million development project for the Bunawan Eco-Park and Research Center which will include massive infrastructure for tourism in Bunawan and for croc conservation research. That’s an expensive and ambitious project in a province with 51.2% of households below the poverty threshold. Ehem!

How great thou cage!
Lolong has obviously turned from being a feared suspect that took lives and limbs to one of the main attractions and milking cow for a considerable income  in a poor town.
With all the points raised by groups like PETA, the residents and the leaders, only one thing is true: that the world’s largest captured crocodile is confined in a small cage with a mini pond enough for a small fleet of ducklings to swim around. []

I'm not sure if I should smile or not. Oktnxbye!

How to get there:
Bunawan Eco Park is 8 kilometers from the nearest town. Travelers can ride the habal-habal (single motorcycle) to the Eco Park.
I was with office mates and colleagues when I visited Bunawan and other tourism destinations in Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur in CARAGA Region. We rented a van from South Cotabato and it took us around 10 hours from our base to get there.
For the backpackers who plan to visit the place via public transportation this blog post HERE can be very helpful.
For those who will travel by air to get to Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur, HERE’s the list of nearby airports.
Entrance Fee to the park is only Php20.

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