World's largest crocodile dies in Philippines

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, his caretakers said today.

“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 country’s 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 told AFP.

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 of eating a fisherman.

Its capture made the town famous and Lolong became a big tourist attraction.But it also put the spotlight on the plight of the crocodiles in the Philippines’ remote marshes and rivers.

Animal rights groups also demanded Lolong be released back into the wild, arguing that the pen that held him was too small and stressful for an animal used to roaming great distances.

But Elorde said caretakers tried to give Lolong everything he needed in captivity, and that releasing him would have left him in 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 newspaper reported Monday that Lolong had been ailing since swallowing a cord three weeks ago, a claim Elorde denied.

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