MANILA, Philippines — A remote southern Philippine town has gone into mourning over the death of the world’s largest saltwater crocodile in captivity, even though it was suspected of killing people.
Bunawan town plans to preserve the remains of the 1-ton crocodile, named Lolong, in a museum to keep tourists coming and stop the community from slipping back into obscurity, the mayor said Monday.
Lolong was declared dead Sunday after being found floating on its back with a bloated stomach in a pond in an ecotourism park that had begun to draw tourists, revenue and development because of the immense reptile, Mayor Edwin Cox Elorde said.
“The whole town, in fact the whole province, is mourning,” Elorde said. “My phones kept ringing because people wanted to say how affected they are.”
Wildlife experts will perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death, he said.
Guinness World Records had proclaimed it the largest saltwater crocodile in captivity last year, measuring the giant at 20 feet 3 inches. The reptile took the top spot from an Australian crocodile that measured more than 17 feet and weighed nearly a ton.
Estimated at more than 50 years old, the crocodile was named after a government environmental officer who died from a heart attack after traveling to Bunawan in Agusan del Sur province to help capture the beast.
Even though Lolong was blamed for the deaths of several villagers over the years, Bunawan villagers grew to love the giant reptile because it came to symbolize the rich biodiversity of the marsh where it was captured.