Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje today said that the DENR will continue to assist the local government of Bunawan in Agusan de Sur for the care and safety of ‘lolong’ in captivity.

At the same time, he said that a proposal to study the population abundance of crocodile in the Agusan Marsh is currently being evaluated by the DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau.

“PAWB is now evaluating a proposal to undertake a survey of crocodile population in Agusan Marsh. One particular objective of the survey is to find out if there are still ‘nuisance’ crocodiles in the area so that the DENR, in coordination with the LGU and other support organizations, could come up with a better management alternative,” Paje said.

He also said that PAWB Director Mundita Lim has earlier met with Bunawan Mayor Edwin Elorde to assess the current artificial facility of ‘lolong’ and other technical matters.
“From what I learned from Director Lim is that the current facility is quite small for ‘lolong’. That is why she recommended to Mayor Elorde to construct a bigger one, which somehow approximates the natural habitat of crocodiles, with trees around and a deeper pond,” Paje said.

Paje explained that the reason why the holding pen for ‘lolong’ was quite small for him was because it was constructed prior to its capture. “According to Dir. Lim, the size of the enclosure was based on the regular size of crocodiles that are currently taken care of in crocodile farms in Palawan and Davao. Who would think that ‘lolong’ would be this huge,” Paje said. At 21 feet long, 3.5 feet wide and weighing 1,075 kilos, ‘lolong’ is the country’s biggest crocodile in captivity at present.

Paje said Mayor Elorde was agreeable to the recommendation of constructing a new one within the area in Brgy. Consuela. In the meantime, the local government is now reinforcing the perimeter fence of the current facility of ‘lolong’ with a meter-wide compacted soil surrounded by another layer of concrete perimeter fence.

On calls to return the captured crocodile, Paje expressed appreciation for the concern of the group. However, he said it is also important to give due consideration to the welfare of the people in Agusan Marsh.

According to Paje, even if it could not be ascertained that ‘lolong’ was responsible for the attacks, the situation calls for prudence on the part of the local government and of the DENR to keep the captured crocodile in its artificial habitat for the safety of the residents.

“Definitely, we could not compromise the safety of the residents. We have to understand that the community is already living in fear, especially with the report that there’s a bigger one out there in the marsh, based on the accounts of the residents themselves,” Paje stressed.

At the same time, Paje said that the DENR and the LGU could not allow ‘lolong’ to be exposed to public wrath. “Lolong will be better off in its artificial habitat to prevent people from killing it,” he said.

During her visit last week, Lim awarded Mayor Elorde a plaque of appreciation for all the support exerted by the local government in ensuring not only the safe capture of lolong but also its proper care and maintenance, and for providing facility for the crocodile.