Wednesday, September 07, 2011
RICHARD FREEMAN: GIANT CROCODILE CAPTURED ALIVE HAS POTENTIAL TO BE A SUPERGIANT
Back in 2008 I reported on a 30-foot crocodile that lurked in Agusan Marsh - a huge wetland covering 14,835.989 hectares in eastern Mindanao in the Philippines. The giant was nicknamed Potol (slasher) by the local people. The creature bit the head off a girl who was rowing across the marsh, the event being witnessed by a local fisherman. The girl’s body was uneaten and it seems that the attack was a territorial one. The girl’s companion, who was rescued by the fisherman, said her oar had hit something in the water that she thought was a submerged tree. It seems that the tree was in fact Potol, who thought a rival male was challenging him. In the ensuing panic, a whole floating village was evacuated.
Now a huge crocodile has been captured alive in Agusan Marsh. At 21 feet long, he is the biggest crocodile ever caught alive but he’s not Potol. The creature, weighing over one ton was snared near Bunawan Township after a three week hunt, during which bait was taken and the steel cable traps destroyed. This specimen is 3 feet longer than Cassius, an Indo-Pacific croc in captivity in Australia, and a foot longer than Yai, an Indo-Pacific / Siamese hybrid held on a crocodile farm in Thailand.
It took 100 people to drag the crocodile to a clearing where it was moved with a crane to a temporary enclosure. Mayor Edwin Cox Elorde plans to create an ecotourism park with the huge crocodile as the star. Film shows the unharmed crocodile being released into a pool. It is being kept away from the public to reduce stress.
This is a good turn of events for a couple of reasons. First, it shows that attitudes to crocodiles are changing. No one wants to kill the beasts any more (killing a crocodile in the Philippines carries a heavy prison sentence, quite rightly) but to preserve it in an eco-park. The crocodile will provide an excellent tourist attraction and may be a valuable breeding animal if provided with females. The hatchlings can be kept until they are large enough to fend for themselves and can then be returned to the wild.
Secondly, in captivity, if well looked after, this already huge crocodile may become a super giant. With regular feedings, providing more food than it would get in the wild, the animal can put all its energy into growth. It will not have to expend energy on hunting or fighting rival males for mates. Ten years down the line he may have reached the 23-24-foot size bracket. Imagine a crocodile of that size on show to the public. What an ambassador for his species and for the preservation of those in the wild.
Crocs of this size are rare but still occur in certain areas: the remote parts of Northern Australia, New Guinea, parts of Borneo, parts of Eastern India, parts of Indonesia and parts of East and Central Africa. It is thrilling to think that such beasts still roam the earth and that some places are still wild.
And back in Agusan Marsh, Potol, the king of the crocodiles, still rules as un-challenged monarch.