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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

RICHARD FREEMAN: Giant Crocodiles

A recent story and photograph have emerged from Australia's Northern Territory. A 6.5m crocodile was supposedly shot and killed in Manangoora, about 600 miles southwest of Darwin in 1997. However, a dispute over the picture has now broken out. Chas Cole, from Katherine, Queensland, has claimed that the photograph was taken just four years ago and said the image, which has become popular on the internet, came from Queensland.

"It was a friend of mine, who was a structural engineer, who took the photo," he said. "It tangled himself on the cables and drowned to death."

Mr Cole said his friend took the photo halfway between Normanton and Karumba in North Queensland. Regardless of its origin the accompanying photo shows a very big Indo-Pacific croc next to a pickup truck with a little girl in the foreground.

This could be a case of perspective making it look bigger, though it does look like a big croc. If it was one of three 22-footers and was shot in 1997 then the other two would be 23-24 foot now and weigh at least two tons apiece. One shot in Queensland in the ‘50s was 28 feet. There is a giant in a swamp in the Philippines reckoned to be 30 feet. Big crocs like this are rare; global treasures that need to be protected.

A project I’d like to undertake if I had the cash would be to visit all the locations in Africa, India, Indonesia and Australia with reports of giant crocs and try to film them. As well as the Philippine 30-footer there are supposed to be 23 footers in Malawi/ Burundi , Orissa, India and the island of Ternate in Indonesia. Even bigger ones are spoken of in the Congo and New Guinea.

Gustave, the notorious man-eater of Lake Tanganyika, is reckoned to be 23 feet long, and Orissa in India is home to a population of giants. Bhitarkanika Park has eight Indo-Pacific crocodiles of 16 to 18 feet, while five were reportedly having a length of 18 to 20 feet, and three measured above 20 feet. The largest is 23 feet long. A man-eater was shot dead near Dhamara during 1926 and later its skull was preserved by the then Kanika King. The crocodile experts said as per the parameters, the crocodile would be about 25 feet since the size of the skull was measured one seventh of the total length of the body.

After the case of the 30 foot giant that killed a girl in the Agusan swamp in the Philippines, Mindanao Magazine printed the following article which I reproduce here in full.

Eyewitnesses Claimed Sightings of Giant Crocodiles in Agusan Marsh

by Ben Serrano
March 14, 2009
San Marcos, BUNAWAN, Agusan del Sur – Residents here mostly evacuees from floating community of Lake Mihaba today claimed to have personally witnessed sightings of giant crocodiles other than the 40-foot long and one and a half meter wide water crocodile that attacked and killed a twelve year old girl last March 7.

“We have seen at least three others but of smaller sizes maybe 28 to 26 feet long and a meter in width water crocodiles within Lake Mihaba and nearby areas of the Agusan Marsh”, floating community resident Mrs. Emma Calderon and Manobo fishermen Pepito Barrios, 32 and Orwin Ruiz, 57. The three were among the more than 100 floating Lake Mihaba community residents who evacuated to Barangay San Marcos for fear of another crocodile attack that already victimized and decapitated a 12 year old female student from Mihaba floating school.

Manobo fisherman Rosbiano Navarro, 35, told this writer that the giant crocodile who attacked him last January 29, 2009 near his floating home in another area in Lake Mihaba was smaller one, he estimated around 26 to 28 meters long and a meter wide.

Navarro said he was rowing his boat going home after fishing around 6 p.m. of January 29, 2009 when the giant crocodile attacked him from behind.

Fortunately, he claimed he already noticed the presence of the giant crocodile behind him because of the waves the giant crocodile was creating as reptile was following him but he kept his composure and didn’t panicked.
Fortunately, he claimed he already noticed the presence of the giant crocodile behind him because of the waves the giant crocodile was creating as reptile was following him but he kept his composure and didn’t panicked.

“Luckily, I was able to jump and held myself in a twig of a tree in a swampy area near my home but still the water crocodile bit portion of my legs and stomach” Navarro said as he show scars of the wounds. The recent sighting was the one made by the relatives and parents of the giant croc attack victim Rowena Romano, couple Rex, 45, and Divina Romano, 40.

The couple claimed that at about 9 a.m. yesterday March 13, when they were cruising Lake Mihaba aboard a motorized banca heading towards Barangay San Marcos, the venue of the evacuation, they got surprised of their lives when a giant crocodile about 28 meters long, more than one meters wide appear near them.

“ We personally saw the giant crocodile as it was only two meters away from us and we even look eye to eye with the monster luckily it never go near to us neither attack us as we speed away from the reptile”, the couple told this writer in an interview here yesterday afternoon. The surviving family of the first casualty victim of the giant crocodile attack were among floating community residents who evacuated from their floating houses due to fear of another giant crocodile attacks.

The whole area of Barangay San Marcos is part of the 113 ,000 hectares Agusan Marsh that when flooding occurs due rising of water level, the whole of Barangay San Marcos area is under water.

DENR Agusan del Sur Assistant Protected Area Superintendent Rufino Moreno Miranda who is in-charge on protected wild life endangered species at Agusan Marsh said the largest water crocodile in captivity in the World so far is 26 meters long and claimed water crocodiles are among the longest living reptiles on earth and can survived up to one hundred years or even more. He said at one time some U.P. Los Ba┼łos students he accompanied tried to get blood samples from water crocodiles at Agusan Marsh but the students never go near the crocodiles as Agusan Marsh crocodiles are the most elusive and difficult to catch.

“They usually appear in group at night and some sightings in late afternoon”, Miranda said. Miranda claimed the Agusan del Sur Provincial Protected Area Office have already received several offers like from the Crocodile Farm Institute in Palawan for technical assistance as well as physical help in the capture of the giant crocodile that attacked 12 year old girl last Saturday.

I think the author, whose first language is not English, is confusing metres with feet: 26-28-footers are likely to exist but 26-28 metres (getting on for 100 feet) are not. However, it does seem that the Agusan Marsh area is a hot spot for big crocs and a place that I would very much like to visit.

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