CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/19 September) – The capture of Lolong, a 21-foot crocodile inhabiting the marshlands of Bunawan town in Agusan del Sur, has sparked a debate on whether the reptile should be kept in captivity or released back to the wild. Bunawan Mayor Edwin Elorde has stood pat that Lolong, which could land in the Guinness as the largest crocodile ever caught alive, should stay in captivity, citing the danger it poses to residents living near its habitat. As expected, naturalists and animal rights advocates have expressed the opposite stance.
Mayor Elorde’s position on Lolong’s fate is understandable. After all, it is part of the duty of local officials to protect the welfare of citizens. On the other hand, the proposal to release the animal is grounded on the argument that it was the people who encroached into its territory, disrupted the natural processes therein, and ultimately led it to occasionally attack humans whenever it felt threatened by their presence. Forget about Hollywood stuff; science has repeatedly proved that even the most dreadful of predators only attack humans as an act of survival.
Regardless, however, of where one stands on this issue, it has provided yet another opportunity to bring into focus the possible consequences of stretching the arbitrary limits of asserting the self-ascribed “superiority” of humans. By expanding their domain at the expense of the “lesser” species humans have knowingly or unknowingly altered the dynamics of nature’s cycles, processes so subtle and gradual that they are hardly noticed, until their catastrophic outcomes unfold. Sadly, it often takes incidents like Lolong’s attacks on people and domesticated animals for us to realize that we have done something amiss.
Nonetheless, the blame never lies in us but in creatures like Lolong, and their inability to explain their behavior, their mute helplessness, is sufficient proof of guilt. Humans are always innocent when it comes to ethical questions concerning their relationships with the rest of creation, conveniently forgetting their acts that have crossed the thin boundaries between them and the other species.
Biologists call predators like the Philippine Eagle and crocodiles “indicator species”. If they’re present in an ecosystem, it means that that ecosystem is still healthy. It suggests that the food web has remained unbroken; there is enough food for these top predators.
Maybe our political ecosystem has remained healthy too because the crooks have thrived in it. But wait, it’s quite unfair and inaccurate to liken the crooks to crocs.
According to the experts, crocodiles aren’t as voracious as we think. An adult crocodile only consumes about seven kilos of meat per week because its digestive system, like those of snakes and other reptiles, is slow. In instances where many crocodiles pound on a single prey, those that have eaten their fill would give way to those that are still hungry.
Contrast this attitude of sharing among crocodiles to the greed of people we like to call with the same name, and you’d realize we have been so grossly unfair in our judgment. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)