DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Candles were lit, a pig was slaughtered, and eggs and orange soda were offered to the spirits as “Lolong,” the world’s largest crocodile in captivity, was buried Tuesday night in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur.
The rites were held by the Manobo tribe of Agusan, which held similar rites when Lolong was approaching death last Sunday at the eco-park and research center where the reptile was kept in a pen since its capture in September 2011 in the Agusan Marsh.
“We held our rites in thanksgiving for giving us Lolong. The rites enabled us to offer Lolong to the spirits,” Bunawan Mayor Edwin Elorde explained.
Elorde said they offered eggs, Royal Tru-Orange, Mallorca cocktail and the butchered pig to the Manobo spirits.
He said the crocodile was skinned and decapitated. What remained was buried in a pit two meters deep, within the same enclosure where it was kept.
Elorde said the skinned carcass was buried to speed up decomposition. The bones will be exhumed within three to four months and re-assembled.
The local council still has to decide whether Lolong will be preserved through taxidermy or tanning.
“Compared with taxidermy, I understand tanning involves the preservation of the skin wherein it can last longer,” Elorde told The STAR.
Certain parts of Lolong’s vital organs were brought to Manila for further laboratory examination following a necropsy conducted last Tuesday.
Elorde said the cause of Lolong’s death has not been determined.
“We are waiting for the report from Manila,” Elorde said.
Director Mundita Lim of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau in Quezon City is meeting next week with a team of veterinarians to consolidate necropsy results and determine the cause of the crocodile’s death.
Following Lolong’s death, two pairs of crocodiles have been donated to the Bunawan eco-park by Philip Dizon, proprietor of the crocodile park in Davao City and the Manila Crocodile Park along Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City.
Elorde thanked Dizon for the donation.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the death of Lolong was a significant loss to the country’s crocodile conservation program, for which the reptile was considered the “ambassador.”
With Lolong’s death, a saltwater crocodile caught in Australia named “Cassius” regained its place in the Guinness World Records as the largest of its kind in captivity. – Edith Regalado, Rhodina Villanueva