Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje today directed the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) to work closely with the local government of Bunawan in Agusan del Sur for the proper management of the captured crocodile.

At the same time, he lauded the safe capture of ‘Lolong’ by a team of hunters led by Bunawan Mayor Edwin Elorde and technical experts from the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center. “I would like to congratulate the team of Mayor Elorde and our technical people from Palawan Wildlife Rescue Center. The capture of ‘Lolong’ alive is certainly commendable as we were able to preserve the life of the largest crocodile ever captured in the country, and perhaps even the world,” Paje said.

In addition, Paje said the PAWB team is also expected to discuss with Mayor Elorde the need to assess the remaining crocodile population in the marshland. “Our conservation effort should not end with the capture of ‘Lolong’. While its capture comes as a big relief to the residents, some of whom may have experienced crocodile attacks in the past, we also have to take a look at the situation on how we could harmonize or promote the co-existence of the people and the crocodiles and other wildlife in the Agusan Marsh.”

Citing the Agusan situation as an “example of growing human-animal conflict,” Paje underscored the need for the immediate passage of the land-use bill by Congress. “The land-use plan is an important policy instrument that would address increasing land-use conflicts, including wildlife-human settlements,” he said.

‘Lolong’, a saltwater crocodile, was the object of a hunt in the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary for the past two years, said Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau Director Mundita Lim. In fact, according to her, an enclosure has been put up for the crocodile by the local government in response to the reported killing of a 12-year old girl in March 2009.

Last May, Lim said, the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary gave its go-signal for the Bunawan municipal government to spearhead the capture of ‘Lolong’. They have also entered into a memorandum of agreement that stipulated the procedural details and the manner of coordination among the parties for the capture of the huge reptile, listed as a critically endangered species under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).

The Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, which serves as Lolong’s natural habitat until its capture, was established as a protected area by virtue of Proclamation No. 913 issued on Oct. 31, 1996.

According to the PAWB director, the Agusan Marsh was considered to be the most ecologically significant wetland protected area in the country, hence its inclusion in the list of Wetlands of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention.

“The Agusan Marsh serves as a wintering ground of migratory birds from Northern Asia, as well as a catch basin of the Agusan-Davao plain. It provides ecological balance, livelihood support and other benefits to the local communities,” she said.