BUNAWAN, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews/19 July) – “Lolong,” the world’s largest saltwater crocodile that died in captivity, will be displayed at the town’s eco-park after its taxidermy at the National Museum in Metro Manila, officials assured.
The reptile was exhumed yesterday (Thursday) from its burial site inside the fenced artificial pond where the crocodile stayed after it was captured on September 3, 2011.
Councilor Ronald Nuer, chairman of the special committee for the preservation of the remains of Lolong, said the local government, the National Museum and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have crafted a memorandum of agreement assuring the return of the crocodile’s remains to their town.
“What we are after here is the assurance that the remains of Lolong will be returned to the town, we are not going to argue who will own the remains. We have asked the National Museum and they assured us that both the stuffed skin and the assembled skeleton will be returned and displayed here in the eco-park,” said Nuer.
Nuer said that the MOA between the DENR, National Museum and the local government “will be signed between July 23 to 26.”
“We are just finalizing the details since the signing should be done in public and the initial plan was to have it done at the National Museum in Manila,” he said.
Bunawan Mayor Edwin Elorde said he is optimistic that the crocodile’s remains would be returned to the town.
“This place (eco-park) has both joyful and painful memories for me and the people of the town. Lolong’s untimely demise was very painful for me since I’ve spent a lot of time with the crocodile in this park. But I am happy with the [initial] agreement that he will be displayed here where he truly belongs,” said Elorde.
Elorde said they are currently developing the eco-park to further attract tourists to the area, like the improvement of the road from the highway to the park.
He disclosed that a building where Lolong’s remains would be displayed will be constructed inside the eco-park.
“An architect from the National Museum will supervise and give us the final specification for the building since they have certain requirements for the preservation of both the displayed stuffed skin and skeletal remains,” Elorde said.
The mayor also said that Davao Crocodile Park president and chief executive officer Philip Dizon has offered to donate male and female crocodiles to the park.
“Mr. Dizon has already signified his willingness to donate two 13-feet crocodiles that will hopefully help repopulate the wild. Our plan is to breed them here in the park and then release back to the Agusan Marsh their offspring,” he said.
“We are planning to donate a saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) and the endangered freshwater Philippine Crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis). The two crocodiles will be a male and a female and with our guidance, we hope to successfully breed the crocodiles to help the dwindling crocodile population in Agusan Marsh,” Dizon said in an interview last March.
Dizon said he wants to use the crocodiles as an inspiration to drive people to help in the conservation of Agusan Marsh.
George Abcede, officer-in-charge of the National Museum branch in Butuan City, said their national office has apprised them of the plan regarding Lolong’s remains, which will be brought first to Butuan City before shipment to Manila.
“It will be assembled at the National Museum in Manila by our taxidermist and then returned to Bunawan for display,” he said.
The skin of Lolong with its attached head is presently being kept frozen at the Davao Crocodile Park. The main National Museum has yet to order its transport to Manila.
Lolong was officially certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “world’s biggest crocodile in captivity” at 20.25 ft (6.17 meters).
The crocodile died at around 8 p.m. last February 10. The necropsy concluded the reptile died because of pneumonia and cardiac arrest. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)