Fisherfolks in Siargao afraid to venture in mangrove areas after giant crocodile found dead

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 Oct) – A day after a big crocodile was found dead in Del Carmen town in Siargao Island, several fishermen from the island have been afraid to venture out in the mangrove forest to fish, a village official said.

Residents gather around the 14-foot crocodile found dead in a mangrove area of Del Carmen town in Siargao Island last Thursday (27 October 2016).  Contributed photo by Vincent E. Guarte
Residents gather around the 14-foot crocodile found dead in a mangrove area of Del Carmen town in Siargao Island last Thursday (27 October 2016). Contributed photo by Vincent E. Guarte

Ezperanza barangay captain Teodoro Galolo said several fisherfolks in his village have ceased to go to the mangroves for fear of being attacked by crocodiles.

Last Thursday morning, a saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) 14 feet and 9 inches long was found dead floating along the waterways by the mangroves in Esperanza. The fishermen who found it then reported it to Galolo, the barangay captain said.

On that day, barangay tanods and some personnel from the Sentro Para sa Ikauunlad ng Katutubong Agham at Teknolohiya (Sikat), a non-government organization conducting mangrove assessment in the area, retrieved the dead body of the crocodile.

“We measured it at 14 feet and 9 inches long, and 2 feet and 8 inches wide,” said Jenny Comon, the barangay secretary of Esperanza.

Galolo said the crocodile must have died only recently because its body was still not in a state of decomposition when found.

Barangay Esperanza is eight kilometers away from the Del Carmen town center.

“Some of the fishermen have ceased to catch fish and crabs in the mangroves for fear of being attacked by crocodiles,” Galolo said.

But Jun Comon, a fishermen from Esperanza, said he would continue to fish in the mangroves despite the presence of large crocodiles, pointing out that his source of income comes mainly from catching mud crabs and fish in the mangrove area.

“We know the presence of crocodiles lurking in the vast mangrove area and that’s part of the challenge. We’re used to it. We need to face it otherwise we go hungry with my family,” he said.

Galolo said they do not know yet the cause of crocodile’s death.

Missing piglets

Galolo said several villagers have reported that a few months ago, several pigs and piglets had mysteriously gone missing and they believe that it has something to do with presence of crocodiles lurking around the mangroves.

He said some fishermen had reported having seen crocodiles even bigger than the one found dead last Thursday.

Del Carmen Mayor Alfredo Coro Jr. said the incident is a major drawback on the town’s efforts on environmental conservation.

“Our personnel, together with those of the non-government organizations and of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), are checking for any foul play that might have caused the death of the crocodile. I am pushing that the incident be investigated,” the mayor said.

On Friday, a necropsy was conducted by DENR personnel to determine its cause of death, but no result has been released yet as of press time.

“Even though the death is tragic but this will serve as a reminder that the presence of crocodiles in Del Carmen is not just a legend but a reality and that people should be careful not to swim in the mangrove area as it would be an accident waiting to happen. Such incident would only hamper and create problems for our protection and conservation efforts,” said Coro.

Dianne Animo, program manager of Sikat, expressed that the death of the crocodile signifies the importance of protection and conservation in Del Carmen.

“This incident signifies the need for a more intensified operation in safeguarding the remaining local population of saltwater crocodiles in the wild. It is also significant to point out that the community should be a part of this effort to protect and conserve not only this species but the entire ecosystem,” said Animo.

Fishermen, on the other hand, have reported sightings of the crocodiles along the mangrove areas in several other barangays in Del Carmen town – Mabuhay, Del Carmen (poblacion), Domoyog Island, San Fernando, Sitio Pangi Antipolo and in San Jose. 

Reports also suggest crocodile sightings in the mangrove areas in the neighboring town of San Benito.

The local government of Del Carmen is planning to preserve the dead crocodile and display it at the town’s Mangrove Protection Information Center.

‘Witches’ in town

In the past, Del Carmen was known to have witches because of reports of several persons that have reportedly gone missing.

Lawyer John Cubillan, who hails from Del Carmen, said that “Numancia” (the old name of the municipality) was notorious for being a town haunted by aswangs, manananggals and other monsters of local folklore.

That tag may have stemmed from the mysterious disappearance of residents, which were later traced to attacks by crocodiles lurking in the vast mangrove forests surrounding the town.

Radel Paredes, a columnist of Cebu Daily News whose roots come from Del Carmen, said his grandfather was attacked by a big crocodile. 

“My grandfather was once attacked by a crocodile while he was rowing a baroto or dugout canoe amidst the mangroves. Luckily, he was able to fight back and drove the reptile away,” he claimed.

Killer turns breeder

In early 1990s a crocodile named “Kibol” (bobtail) grabbed the headlines in the country after it was captured.

The crocodile terrorized the coastal towns in Siargao Island at that time for attacking humans.

A 2003 report in the Philippine Star said Kibol has been serving a “lifetime sentence” as the principal breeder in a crocodile farm in Puerto Princesa in Palawan.

Kibol is 20-foot killer reptile which was captured by a special team of crocodile hunters along the swamps in Del Carmen. It is reportedly now busy “impregnating” young female crocodiles in the farm. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)