Lolong Dies; 20-Foot Crocodile A Tourist Attraction, Dies In Local Mayor’s Arms [PHOTOS]
The largest crocodile in captivity died over the weekend at an ecopark in the Philippines. Lolong, the largest crocodile in captivity, measured a whopping 20-feet in length and was the pride and joy of the small town of Bunawan. Lolong died of unknown causes, although officials have reported that Lolong was suffering from a bloated stomach for over a month after swallowing a nylon cord. A cause of death will be determined by an autopsy, and there are calls by man people in Bunawan to preserve Lolong and make Bunawan a memorial to the world's largest crocodile.
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"The whole town, in fact the whole province, is mourning," Mayor Edwin Cox Elorde told the Associated Press. "My phones kept ringing because people wanted to say how affected they are."
Lolong died after less than two years in captivity. Lolong was captured in the Agusan Marsh, a protected area in Agusan del Sur, on Sept. 3, 2011. A special cage was built for him at the Bunawan Eco-Park and Research Center. He was reportedly named after local hunter Ernesto "Lolong" Conate, who died of a stroke while helping plan the capture of the world's largest crocodile.
Lolong was captured after a hunt prompted by the death of a child in 2009 and the later disappearance of a fisherman. But now that Lolong died, officials in Bunawan are worried about a decline in tourism. Lolong was such a popular attraction that officials had been developing a plan to construct a larger road into the ecopark to accommodate an ever-growing number of visitors.
"Big money came in, and villagers also had several livelihoods in the area," government official Arman Gomez told the Manila Bulletin.
The news comes as especially devastating to Elorde, who rose to prominence in the town after leading the hunt for Lolong with more than 100 men. The hunters tied up Longo and dragged him from the jungle so that the one-ton reptile could be loaded, by crane, into a truck for transport. Various religious groups offered prayers Monday and spiritual leaders also planned to perform a tribal funeral rite, which involves butchering chicken and pigs to thank forest spirits for the fame and other blessings the crocodile has brought, said Elorde. The mayor himself is said to have cradled Lolong as he died.
"I've come to love that crocodile," he said. "It had brought fame to our town and the Philippines."
Here are some photos from the night Lolong was captured.
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