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MANILA: The world’s largest saltwater crocodile in captivity has died in the Philippines, 17 months after the suspected man-eater was hunted down and put on display for tourists, caretakers said yesterday.
Lolong, who measured 6.17 metres (20.24 feet), died on Sunday night from a mystery illness inside his small enclosure in Bunawan, a backwater town in the remote south.
“This is a very, very sad day for us. He had brought fame to our town. We are now thinking of having his remains preserved,” town spokeswoman Welinda Elorde said.
A government-sanctioned hunting party caught Lolong in a sprawling marsh close to Bunawan in September 2011 after it was suspected of biting the head off a young school girl and eating a fisherman.
Its capture made the town famous and Lolong, named after a local crocodile hunter, became a big tourist attraction.
But it also put the spotlight on the plight of the crocodiles in the’ remote marshes and rivers, as human habitation increasingly put them in conflict with the animals. Animal rights groups demanded Lolong be released back into the wild, arguing that the pen was too small and stressful for an animal used to roaming great distances.
But Elorde said caretakers tried to give Lolong everything he needed and that releasing him would have left him at the mercy of villagers who would hunt and kill him. “We tried to give him the best place we could,” she said.
The Philippine Star paper said that Lolong had been ailing since swallowing a cord three weeks ago, a claim Elorde denied.
“We have been alternately feeding him with meat and poultry, and there was no way he could have eaten anything other than that,” she said. AFP