Saturday, April 16, 2011
"A comprehensive natural history such as Diamonds in the Marsh is an invaluable tool in the study and conservations of a species, and can provide a solid foundation for future research, conservation, and management decisions. Brennessel effectively pulls together the bulk of literature on the diamondback and communicates it to the reader in a generally clear, uncluttered fashion so as to make it not only a resource for researchers, but also an interesting read for reptile aficionados."--Herpetological Review
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Once again Youtube is being unhelpful and I am unable to embed this rather lovely film of a rainbowfish species that I am unable to identify. Max is in Iceland this week (believe it or not, amongst other things he was trying to get me a life-sized great auk candle, but on reflection we decided not to) so I cannot do what I would normally do, and ask his advice.
So over to you....
Witness Roy Degas, a fisherman who had been paddling his canoe some way behind them, managed to drag 10 year old Rouelle Hippolan from the water. He said that the crocodile that grabber her friend was thirty feet long. The base of the creature’s tail was three feet across. The victim’s boat was left with deep gouges from the crocodile’s teeth.
Two days after the fatal incident they came upon the headless body of Rowena, floating near the dense vegetation in the southeast corridor of Lake Mihaba where it connects to Lake Talocogun. The limbs and torso are almost intact. A crocodile of this size could swallow a human whole so the condition of the body suggests that this was not a predatory attack. It is likely that the huge reptile mistook the bump from the paddle as another male crocodile. One way in which crocodiles communicate is by bumping the jaws, tails and sides of each other. Outside of the breeding season they are quite social and co-operative animals. In the breeding season males become highly territorial. A big male will attack any other male that enters his territory. They will often attack and destroy boats as was the case with Sweetheart, an 18 foot croc that destroyed a number of boats on the Finnis River in the Northern Territory of Australia in the late 1970s
Captains of pump boats that ferry villagers and cargo to other towns and villages on the Agusan River have claimed to have seen this crocodile floating along the river; the length of the crocodile was longer than the pump boats themselves. These pump boats measure 27 feet long, making the monster crocodile around 30 feet long nearly two feet longer than the biggest known crocodile ‘Krys’ a 28 foot 4 inch male Indo-Pacific croc shot on the Norman River, Queensland in 1957.. At this size he would tip the scales at three tons, as heavy as a big hippo or an average sized male white rhino. Potol may be 100 years or more old. An average crocodile of a big species such as the Nile or the Indo-Pacific will bite down with a force of 5000lbs per square inch making the 400lbs per square inch bite force of a great white shark seem feeble.
In the wake of the attack Lake Mihaba’s floating community has been evacuated. The locals call the giant beast Potol which means ‘slasher’ in Visayan, a Philippine dialect. There is a bizarre story attached to him. It is said that Potol was raised from a hatchling by a ‘wak-wak’ or witch doctor. The witch doctor died several years ago. It is only natural that folklore such as this is attached to such a huge and dangerous beast. Many odd tales are told of Gustave a 23-25 foot man-eating Nile crocodile that has devoured 300 people in the Ruzizi River and northern Lake Tanganyika in East Africa.
An enclosure with a deep pool has been constructed by Mr. Gilbert Elorde mayor of Bunawan to hold Potol if he is ever captured. There are a number of problems with this. Capturing him would be akin to capturing a medium sized flesh eating dinosaur. The baited cages left by Naturalist Patrice Faye to trap Gustave were ignored by the canny beast. Secondly several governmental jurisdictions are jockeying for position of Potol should he be captured. The mayor of Bunawan, the fishing village were the first attack occurred, has legal jurisdiction of the hunting process since the fatal attack occurred in his township. The Department of Natural Resources and The Protected Area Wildlife Bureau, along with private organizations who see the financial possibilities in capturing the largest crocodile on earth, the hunting process has become a complex web of interests and intrigue, in a scenario reminiscent of a Hollywood movie.
Potol was seen again in was seen was April 2009, on the narrow Mahawan channel which connects Lake Tagboya to Lake Mihaba. A fisherman, Mr. Abdullah, was walking along the creek one evening when he heard the rustling of water hyacinths and saw the largest crocodile he had ever seen, black in colour, slowly swimming out of the dense vegetation. Having been startled by the presence of the fisherman and having previously been shot at by humans, the croc quickly turned around and returned into the dense vegetation. According to Mr. Abdullah, the crocodile, from its head to tail stretched almost the width of the creek, which was a good 30 feet wide where the monster made its turn.
Potol may be king of the Agusan Marsh but he is not alone. The area, one of the largest areas of undisturbed wetlands in Asia, seems to be a hotspot for giant crocodiles. The largest crocodile in captivity in the Philippines resides at the Davao Crocodile Park. Named ‘Pangil’ (Fangs), the croc was caught in the Agusan Marsh in 1989 and presently measures over 19 feet. Witnesses claim that Potol shares his domain with other huge crocodiles. Mrs. Emma Calderon and Manobo fishermen Pepito Barrios and Orwin Ruiz, told journalists that they had seen three other crocodiles 26-28 feet long lurking in Mihaba and nearby areas of the Agusan Marsh. Most witnesses were from the floating community on the lake that was evacuated after Rowena Romano was killed.
Manobo fisherman Rosbiano Navarro, said that that the giant crocodile who attacked him in January 29, 2009 near his floating home in another area in Lake Mihaba was smaller than Potol, around 26 to 28 feet long.
Navarro said he was rowing his boat home after fishing around 6 p.m. when the giant crocodile attacked him from behind. Fortunately, he claimed he already noticed the presence of the crocodile because of the waves the giant it was creating as reptile as it was following him.
“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 crocodile bit portion of my legs and stomach” he said
Another recent sighting was made by the parents of the giant croc attack victim Rowena Romano, Rex, and Divina Romano. The couple claimed that at about 9 a.m. on March 13, when they were cruising Lake Mihaba aboard a motorboat heading towards Barangay San Marcos, the venue of the evacuation when a giant crocodile about 28 feet long, more than a meters wide appear near them.
“ We personally saw the giant crocodile as it was only two meters away from us and we even looked eye to eye with the monster luckily it never go near enough to attack us as we speed away from the reptile”.
These giant crocodiles an their habitat are global treasures that need to be preserved. In the Agusan Marsh it seems we may have a population of giants, a situation, as far as we know, unique in the world today.
On this day in 1984 WPC Yvonne Fletcher was murdered by person or persons unknown shooting from within the Libyan embassy in London.
And now the news:
En inglés: On the Track of the Water-Bull (Possible Surviving Toxodon)