Bunawan grieves over Lolong’s demise

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BUNAWAN, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews) – People here were shocked by the sudden death of their icon Lolong, the world’s biggest captive crocodile at 20 feet 3 inches, Sunday night.

Residents trooped to the Bunawan Eco Park here today for a final glimpse of the reptile that brought pride and honor to their town.

Even Bunawan Mayor Edwin Elorde cried during the press conference this morning.

“Lolong was like a son to me. We never took him and his well-being for granted as what most speculate. His death came as a great surprise to us, and we did everything that we can to save him,” the mayor said, adding that he was with Lolong until his last breath.

Rebecca Prochina, who works with the municipal government, said she cried with “tears flowing like a river” when she learned of Lolong’s death. She and her family regularly visit the eco park, where Lolong has been kept since he was captured from the Agusan Marsh in September 2011, as part of her family’s leisure time.

Tricycle driver Arnel Catalon likewise expressed shock, and is worried that tourists may stop coming now that Lolong is dead.

Meanwhile, a seven-man team from the Protected Area and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) from Palawan is expected to arrive later today and start necropsy on Lolong’s body tonight.

Leading the team is Dr. Ronnie Sumilla of PAWB, the mayor said. They left Palawan earlier today and flew to Manila, then to Davao before motoring to this municipality.

Park authorities have covered Lolong’s body with ice and rice husks to preserve it for the benefit of the necropsy team.

Elorde said that Lolong was very normal after Typhoon Pablo hit the area and even requested the supervising personnel of PAWB to check on the crocodile.

“They found nothing wrong with Lolong. After December, our caretakers noticed the difference in the color of the feces from white to brown, so we had it checked,” the mayor said. But laboratory results said negative for bacteria or any problems, he added.

After that, the caretaker reported that he found pieces of straw used as tie or rope from Lolong’s feces, but his physical appearance and movement was still normal, explained Elorde.

The mayor then added that the Australian crocodile expert, Dr. Adam Britton, who is also of National Geographic, suggested that a veterinarian be brought from Davao Crocodile Farm to check on Lolong.

“So yesterday we asked for the insight of veterinarian Alex Collantes (of the Davao Crocodile Farm), the same time our caretakers noticed a bulge in the right abdominal area of Lolong. The veterinarian arrived around 3:00 in the afternoon, but the crocodile was in a very bad shape, totally very different from how he used to be,” Elorde said.

He said that Lolong by then was very unresponsive, and that the mayor even tried to hold it moments before the crocodile died.

Collantes said that until a proper necropsy is conducted, it is very hard to speculate as to the crocodile’s death. “There could be many reasons for the death of Lolong. Until personnel from PAWB in Palawan reach us tonight [and perform the necropsy], it is hard to give out the cause of death,” he added.

In an email, Dr. Adam Britton released a statement that it is unclear as to what might be the cause of Lolong’s death and the news that started to circulate is just creating doubt and will not help solve anything. (Roel N. Catoto and Erwin Mascariñas / MindaNews)

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