Monday, 12 September 2011 14:34
Bunawan, Agusan del Sur, Sept. 11 (PNA) - There could still be 5,000 crocodiles of various sizes that could be found within the 96,000-hectare Agusan Marsh where giant Lolong was captured a few days ago.
Local officials, headed by Bunawan Mayor Edwin “Cox” Elorde and residents of Barangay Nueva Era and other villagers from Agusan del Sur towns whose villages are situated within Agusan Marsh expressed suspicion that Lolong is not alone and that there are more giant, big and of various sizes of crocodiles found within the marsh.
This developed after Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) Director Mundita Lim announced on Saturday morning the Philippine Government, through the agency she is heading, will conduct baseline studies on the actual number of crocodile giants that can be found within the Agusan Marsh.
“On that baseline studies we are planning for Agusan Marsh, it will also finally determine what measures the government must adopt for the safety of the people and the crocodile inhabitants itself to determine on whether they can co-exist or not,” Lim told reporters here on Saturday morning.
In a separate interview with the PNA shortly before the PAWD Director and companions left for Manila, Lim said the baseline studies will also be the basis for the proposed Comprehensive Wildlife Protection and Development Program, saying that apart from crocodiles, Agusan Marsh is also habitat for other species of wildlife animals that needed protection as well as the same protection for the people living inside the Marsh.
“We wanted a comprehensive, scientific and real, genuine data-based approach to solve issues and concerns whether it will be on short, medium and long term solutions whether it will be for tourism or wildlife sanctuary protections and comprehensive development agenda specially on the livelihood aspect for hundreds, if not thousands, of people now inhabiting Agusan Marsh,” Lim said during the tape recorded interview with this writer.
"As of now, all we can say are just speculations, we failed to determine so far, for instance, how many really is the population of crocodiles in the area? If we can’t count it one by one, there are many scientific, tested ways to do it and, so, if we know how many, where, we can now do plans on how to protect them as well as protect people living near habitats of the crocodiles and other wildlife.”
Mayor Elorde, for his part, told the PNA that he and his brother, former Bunawan Mayor for three terms and now number two Agusan del Sur Board Member Gilbert Elorde, the local environment and wildlife office and residents and officials of villages within Agusan Marsh, estimated the crocodile population at 5,000 of various sizes inhabiting the marsh.
“That is our lowest estimate, so far, considering Agusan Marsh has a total area of 96,000 hectares where about seven towns of Agusan del Sur are situated within it” Elorde said.
Elorde and other officials’ basis were villagers, eyewitnesses’ accounts, including discoveries of plenty of eggs of crocodiles found by residents in Agusan Marsh.
According to Mayor Elorde, Bunawan, which is one of the towns situated within Agusan Marsh, is also home to many giants, like giant kuhol, locally called Kambo-ay, giant tilapia, giant mudfish or Haw-an, giant Egrets, and others.
“But with those more giants, maybe we'll make our town popular. We have obligations to balance everything, the safety of humans and the safety of wildlife animals, we really had to do balancing acts and I admit this is a giant responsibility for us as local officials here,” Mayor Elorde added.
Elorde claimed that the hunt for the second giant crocodile had to be temporarily halted because of the dire need to construct for another specially-made cage.
“If we capture the second giant crocodile now where will we put it? And if we mix him with Lolong, especially if it’s a male like Lolong, they might be fighting inside the cage which would all the more become very dangerous,” Elorde further explained.
“We would not wait for October to do the hunting for the second giant crocodile because, by that time, it is already rainy season and flooding in Agusan Marsh may cause problem for us,” Elorde pointed out. (Ben Serrano - PNA)
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