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Agusan mayor: Statements urging croc's release ‘irresponsible’

Mayor Edwin Elorde of Bunawan town in Agusan del Sur criticized statements of non-government organizations (NGOs) calling for the return of the captured giant crocodile back to the wild “irresponsible." The mayor also said on Sunday he would only agree with idea of returning the croc to a creek in Barangay Nueva Era if they (NGOs) pledge to give residents in the village a P500 daily allowance.
The 21-foot croc "Lolong" in his cage in Sitio Masapya, Barangay Consuelo in Bunawan town, Agusan del Sur. Ben Serrano
On September 3, the 21-foot, 1,075 kilogram saltwater crocodile was caught in a creek in Nueva Era. The crocodile has since been named “Lolong," after Palawan-based crocodile hunter Ernesto "Lolong" Goloran Cañete, who died of a heart attack while searching for the animal. “The 1,302 residents [of the barangay] will be affected if we return Lolong into the creek. They passed barangay resolution for the hunt because of the danger the crocodile posed to residents in the barangay," he said. According to Elorde, he received a letter from a Luzon-based NGO Animal Kingdom Foundation, Inc. urging the Bunawan local government to release Lolong. Also, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) made the same request, saying that if it remains in captivity, it could develop abnormal behavior and could cause trouble to its caretakers and future visitors of the proposed park where it is placed. “The best thing these NGOs could have done was to consult not only villagers of Barangay Nueva Era, but also residents living near the Agusan Marsh, which is believed to be Lolong’s natural habitat, before issuing such an irresponsible statement," Elorde said. Reports said Lolong was still traumatized and refused to eat, four days after his capture. The croc now lives in a pen built especially for him in a wildlife reserve owned by the local government. Villagers say 'no' According to Elorde, all the residents in Nueva Era are opposed to the return of Lolong in the marsh. “Oo, payag kami ibalik pero dun sa bakuran nila (we will agree with idea of freeing Lolong but it should be placed in their backyards)," Elorde said. “The best thing these NGOs do now is to help us by giving their technical expertise and maybe funds to help sustain the safety and care of Lolong, and not that Lolong be return to the village where the animal was caught. Ano ito, return to the sender?" he said. Elorde stressed that he, along with some Barangay Nueva Era officials and residents and Palawan Research and Conservation Center volunteers and crocodile hunters, spent months to search and capture the crocodile. Villagers suspect Lolong was behind the disappearance of 53-year-old Agusan Marsh fisherman Daniel Euxtero. Also, some 60 residents had witnessed how two giant crocodiles, one of them believed to be Lolong, attacked and beheaded a carabao in the barangay. Meanwhile, Nueva Era chief and local Iglesia ni Cristo official Teopanis Adlawan told GMA News Online that the 1,302 villagers are one in opposing Lolong's return in the village, saying it posed danger to the community, especially to their children. “Gusto nga namin mahuli pa yung iba kasi paniwala namin di nag-iisa si Lolong. Marami silang nakikita namin, lalo na pag gabi, madaling araw at umaga," Adlawan said. “Entrapment operations" are ongoing to catch more crocodiles in the area. – Ben Serrano with Bea Cupin/LBG, GMA News