Locals in a backwater Philippine town mourned the death of a massive crocodile there, an international attraction that many hoped would transform the future and fortune of the area.
The 20-foot long crocodile known as Lolong, the world's largest in captivity, died Sunday in the southern Philippines. The cause of the crocodile's death is unknown and still under investigation. The 2,370-pound reptile was blamed for at least two deaths in the region before his capture.
Philippine officials said Lolong's skin would be saved in order to be stuffed and mounted, so that locals could still "see" him.
"The team will help ensure that the necropsy would be carried out in a manner that would make it possible to contribute Lolong's remains to taxidermy," Environment Secretary Ramon Paje told ABS-CBN News
The croc turned belly up and died with a bloated stomach, despite veterinarians' attempts to revive him. The loss has many in tears.
“I’m really depressed,” the town's mayor, Edwin Cox Elorde, told Scotsman news. “I’ve come to love that crocodile. It had brought fame to our town and the Philippines.”
Locals hunted Lolong after a 12-year-old girl was killed in 2009 in the Agusan del Sur Marsh on Mindanao. A later attack on a fisherman and reported attacks on livestock were attributed to the animal. Wildlife officials finally pulled the saltwater crocodile out of the Magsagangsang River in Bunawan, after an extensive three-week search in September 2011.
They couldn't determine whether Lolong actually was responsible for the attacks, so he was placed in captivity at a wildlife park to draw visitors.
Paje said Lolong's death is a significant blow to the nation's tourism and crocodile conservation initiative. Lolong was the main attraction of the Davao Crocodile Park, drawing travelers from around the world to catch a glimpse of the massive beast. For the town of 37,000 people, about 515 miles southeast of Manila, the 50-year-old croc was a huge draw.
The eco-tourism park that housed Lolong was built specifically for him. Phillippine officials also had plans to build a new road to accommodate the large number of tourists who flocked to see the reptile. It was unclear of those plans would move forward now.
The crocodile was named for Ernesto “Lolong” Conat, a fisherman who died of a stroke as locals planned the capture. He officially took the Guinness World Record's spot from a 17-foot Australian croc in 2012.
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