KABACAN, North Cotabato (MindaNews/17 April) — Rising temperature, grassfire and destruction of its natural habitat have forced freshwater crocodiles to wander to areas inhabited by humans.
An 8-feet long, 80-kilo crocodile (Crocodylus Mindorensis) was captured by fisherfolk led by Mamangkas Mamatong, in Barangay Kuyapon, Kabacan, North Cotabato Monday last week.
Officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the University of Southern Mindanao named the crocodile “Silangan” since it was captured on the eastern side of the 200,000 hectare marshland.
SILANGAN. Silangan in its new home at the Wild Crocodile Rescue Center in Kidapawan City, headed by Dr. Cayetano Pomares (in red shirt) of the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) Crocodile Research. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA
Mamatong said he was shocked to see the huge reptile trapped inside the indigenous fish trap they installed at the marsh.
He then alerted his relatives and villagers and jointly they seized the crocodile, which initially tried to resist captivity.
It took them days to report to authorities as Mamatong and villagers thought at first of making money out of the catch by selling it to anyone interested but they were told it would be illegal to capture and sell crocodiles, a critically endangered species.
Mamatong and other freshwater fisherfolk said life has become very difficult due to the drought.
Crocodile researchers of the state-run University of Southern Mindanao here and DENR-12 decided to take possession of the reptile which it immediately brought to the Crocodile Rescue and Breeding Area in the North Cotabato provincial capitol grounds in Amas, Kidapawan City.
The crocodile sustained injuries during its captivity by fisherfolk who used traditional means to overpower a huge animal.
Dr. Cayetano Pomares of USM-Kabacan who has a preservation program, studies and research of critically endangered Ligawasan Marsh crocodiles said the crocodile population has dwindled.
“There around a hundred to two hundred… since the breeding pace is so slow, according to our study,” he said.
Pomares said the captured crocodile was among the remaining reptiles in Ligawasan Marsh.
What triggered the crocodiles to come out was blamed on the “on and off” grassfire in the dried up portion of the marsh, forcing the reptiles to migrate to other areas where food is available, he said.
“Humans catch fish from the marshland and fish species in the marsh are also the crocodile’s favorite food,” Pomares explained.
Citing climate change, Pomares said there is “some sort of a tug of war between reptiles and humans for food, in this case the fresh water fish.”
He attributed the migration of crocodiles outside of its natural habitat to rising water temperature and receding water in the marshland.
Forester Michael Bao of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources also agreed climate change was a major factor that forced reptiles to migrate.
“That is why we appeal to fisherfolk and those living near the marshland not to capture or harm the crocodile,” he said.
“Help protect our wildlife so our next generation could still see this kind of animals in future,” he added.
Pomares said further study will be conducted on the captured reptile for research purposes or possibility for propagation before it will be released back to the wild.
Two years ago, a huge crocodile was captured in M’lang, North Cotabato but Mayor Lito Pinol in coordination with the local DENR office, ordered the return of the reptile back to its natural habitat. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/ MindaNews)