September 7, 2011 in Nation/World

Giant croc captured; larger beast may lurk

Jim Gomez Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

A Philippine National Police officer stands next to a giant crocodile Sunday.
(Full-size photo)

MANILA, Philippines – Relieved Filipino villagers threw a party when they captured a 1-ton crocodile, with about 100 people pulling the feared beast from a creek by rope then hoisting it by crane onto a truck. The party may have been premature.

After the 20-foot saltwater crocodile was caught over the weekend, authorities said Tuesday an even bigger killer crocodile may lurk in creeks of the remote southern region.

The crocodile – weighing 2,370 pounds and estimated to be at least 50 years old – is the biggest caught alive in the Philippines in recent years. Wildlife officials were trying to confirm whether it was the largest such catch in the world, said Theresa Mundita Lim of the government’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau.

It was captured alive after a three-week hunt in Bunawan township in Agusan del Sur province, where villagers have been terrified. A child was killed two years ago in the township by a crocodile that was not caught, and a croc is suspected of killing a fisherman missing since July. Villagers witnessed a crocodile killing a water buffalo last month.

Bunawan villagers celebrated after they caught the crocodile. “It was like a feast, so many villagers turned up,” Mayor Edwin Cox Elorde said.

Wildlife official Ronnie Sumiller, who has hunted “nuisance crocodiles” for 20 years and led the team behind the capture in Bunawan, said a search was under way for a possibly larger crocodile he and villagers have seen roaming in the farming town’s marshy outskirts.

Backed by five village hunters he has trained, Sumiller has set 20 steel cable traps with an animal carcass as bait along the creek where the first crocodile was caught and in a nearby vast marshland.

People in the farming town of about 37,000 people have been told to avoid venturing into marshy areas alone at night, Elorde said.

Elorde said he plans to make the captured crocodile “the biggest star” in an ecotourism park to be built to increase awareness among villagers and potential tourists of the vital role the dreaded reptiles play in the ecosystem.

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