MANILA, Philippines – Bunawan, Agusan del Sur Mayor Edwin Elorde on Monday said the caretakers of "Lolong", the world's largest crocodile in captivity, did their best in attending to the needs of the giant reptile before its death on Sunday.
Lolong died past 8 p.m. on Sunday. It is set to undergo necropsy to determine the cause of its death.
"Ginawa talaga namin sa abot ng aming kakayahan, our very best. Tini-treat namin si Lolong as VIP, together with our partner agencies, DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) at Davao Crocodile Park tumutulong talaga sa amin," Elorde told ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda".
"So iyun lang ang problema, 'di naman natin control ang buhay ng isang bagay. Ma-found out lang ito kung mabuksan ang katawan."
Lolong, which measured 6.2 meters (20 feet and 4 inches), dislodged then world record holder Cassius of Australia from being the largest crocodile in captivity. Cassius measured at 5.48 meters.
It was named after the late crocodile hunter, Ernesto "Lolong" Goloran Cañete.
According to Elorde, Lolong seemed normal in the days leading up to its death last night. However, he noted that the giant crocodile did not eat during its feeding days last January 23 and February 3.
Elorded added that the distension on Lolong's right stomach was only observed yesterday.
"Actually binisita pa siya ng mga partners namin from agencies - government and private sectors - last January 31 and last December para ma-closely monitor ang health niya," he said.
Initial assessment by Dr. Alex Cullantes of the Davao Crocodile Park, meanwhile, said the sudden changes in temperature in the province may have also affected the health of the giant reptile.
Elorde said the remains of Lolong are being preserved using ice while waiting for the experts who will conduct the necropsy.
Animal rights group wanted Lolong freed
The decision to hold Lolong in captivity was met with great opposition by animal rights activists, particularly the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
PETA senior campaigner Ashley Funo had said that "the physical and mental frustrations of captivity often lead to abnormal, neurotic, and even self-destructive behaviors in animals, called 'zoochosis.' This mental illness is marked in other species by symptoms such as pacing, neck-twisting, head-bobbing, bar-biting, and other repetitive behaviors"
The Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB), however, said the giant crocodile should not be released into the wild since its size makes it a "nuisance."
Lolong was believed to have eaten a man who went missing and killed a 12-year-old girl.
An eco-park was eventually set up for Lolong, drawing tourists from around the world who wanted to see the Guinness record holder. – with reports from Richmond Hinayon, ABS-CBN News Caraga; and ANC