Lolong never should have been captured
The death of crocodile Lolong continues to be a hot topic for discussion. In this essay, I would like to point out some important aspects of crocodile biology and ecology.
In the Philippines, only few people have some knowledge about crocodiles. These include those who raise crocodiles for the crocodile industry or for conservation and biologists from academic institutions who have done some research work on the few remaining individuals of the two species of crocodiles found in the country.
From published accounts on crocodiles, it is known that they are an ancient group, having survived for millions of years in their natural habitats before the predominance of human beings. Humans generally fear them because of the misconception about their occasional man-eating habit. This negative behavior of crocodiles is given more weight than the benefits they provide human beings, and they are viewed as species to be eliminated rather than to be conserved.
But thinking more deeply, it can be seen that many cases of human accidents happen because human beings intrude into crocodile habitats. Such habitats are often marginal areas suited only for crocodiles and other wildlife species. Man, being superior in intellect compared to crocodiles, should avoid direct contacts with crocodiles and should reserve wild areas for crocodiles and other wildlife species.
With regard to Lolong, it is likely that it lived in the Agusan Marsh for many decades, for perhaps some 5 or 6 decades based on its size at 20.4 feet in total length and a weight of more than a ton. In the marsh, it was able to co-exist with many smaller individuals of its kind, being a social species. It can also be assumed that prior to its capture it was a healthy animal, as there is no reason to assume that it was sick. Crocodiles in their natural habitat are known to be hardy species. Because crocodiles are hardy species, they have been crocodiles for millions of years of evolutionary history. For this reason, they are aptly called “living fossils.”
Other aspects of their biology include possessing powerful stomach juices that can kill bacteria and the ability to digest the toughest food materials like bones. Crocodiles are able to use the nutrients from the hard-to-digest food materials. Crocodile stomach analysis reveals that only few chemical substances escape digestion by their digestive juices. It has also been reported that crocodile blood fluids do kill certain bacteria.
In their natural habitats, crocodiles engage in many activities such as swimming and other movements needed for capturing their food. The buoyancy effect of water greatly enables them to float or move about freely in their habitats. Crocodiles also often move out of the water to bask in the sun to regulate their body temperatures.
They are often seen on stream and river banks. However, they rarely go on land very far from water. Because of its heavy weight of more than one ton, Lolong could not probably walk or run for long distances with its body elevated from the ground.
The rearing of wild creatures like crocodiles of the size of Lolong requires that they be provided an enclosure or pen that approximates their normal habitats in the wild in terms of size, substrate, water depth, basking sites, food source, etc.
It is becoming clear that wild crocodiles now existing in various places of the country should no longer be captured. They should be managed in their natural habitats. The reason for this is to avoid trauma associated with the capture process. If for valid reasons large crocodiles have to be captured, an acceptable procedure that will not injure or traumatize them, such as the present methods used in capturing large mammals, should be used.
That Lolong had been sick before its capture in Agusan Marsh has little or no basis at all. More likely it was a healthy animal, as evident from the foregoing discussion. But it must be noted that Lolong’s health status was not determined during the one and a half years of its captivity. - Rappler.com
Dr. Angel Alcala is a marine biologist and former Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (1992-1995). He is a world-renowned crocodile expert, pioneer conservationist and Chairman of the Crocodylus Porosus Philippines Inc. association of commercial crocodile farms. Dr. Alcala is also is research professor and Director of Silliman University's Angelo King Center for Research and Environmental Management.