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PALAWAN, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Authorities recovered Wednesday, November 28, the mutilated body of a fishermen who was believed to have been attacked by a crocodile in Balabac, an island town in the southernmost part of Palawan.
Police identified the body as that of 33-year-old Cornelio Bonete, a resident of Barangay Poblacion 5 whom relatives reported missing since Tuesday, November 27.
Senior Inspector Francis Rey Manito, Balabac police chief, told Rappler over the phone that the mutilated body of Bonete was found 4 p.m. Wednesday in Sitio Bual, Barangay Malaking Ilog.
Manito said Bonete’s right arm and left foot were both severed from his body, while the right foot was broken. There were also multiple wounds all over Bonete’s body, said Manito, most probably caused by crocodile bites.
Police authorities, along with Balabac mayor Al-hazni Astami, retrieved the body, Manito added.
Bonete, a resident of Barangay Poblacion 5, was last seen early Tuesday, November 27. His family said he did not return home since after he attended to his fishing boat.
Earlier, a local radio station broadcast an unverified report that the mutilated body of Bonete was found in Barangay Salang, some 6 kilometers from where he was last seen.
Balabac is known for recurrent human-crocodile conflicts, being the stronghold of saltwater crocodiles in the Philippines. Last month, a 16-year-old high school student survived a crocodile attack also in Barangay Poblacion 5.
Crocodile expert Rainier Manalo reminded Balabac residents to be wary as November starts the crocodiles’ breeding or mating season. He said it lasts until February, while their egg-laying season falls in March until August.
“During this time crocodiles are very active and highly protective in their territories,” Manalo, executive director of Davao-based non-profit Crocodylus Porosus Philippines Inc, told Rappler in a text message.
Manalo’s group has been continuously studying years of human-crocodile conflict in Balabac. They attribute the crocodile attacks to the increase in habitat loss due to mangrove conversion and debarking in major areas in town.
“Human-crocodile conflict is not easily prevented if there’s an increasing habitat destruction,” he said.
The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), an environment agency tasked to implement R.A. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, said its communication team held a crocodile awareness campaign in town recently.
“The only way to avoid [the human-crocodile conflict] is mitigation. Meaning, people should always be aware that crocodiles are present in their area and take responsibility, being diligent enough to avoid an encounter with crocodiles,” PCSD spokesman Jovic Fabello told Rappler in a separate interview.
Fabello added the presence of crocodiles in town is a “common knowledge to the residents and it saddens us an incident like this still happened.”
The Balabac municipal government previously told Rappler that its staff had also conducted information drives in affected barangays of Catagupan, Rabor, Poblacion and Agutayan, and also installed warning signs reminding vulnerable residents to stay away from river swamps identified as crocodiles’ habitat. – Rappler.com