Lolong, the world’s largest captive saltwater crocodile, was found dead in his pond at a Philippine ecotourism park. The town of Bunawan is mourning the loss of one of its most interesting residents and plans to preserve the remains of the 1-ton crocodile, so tourists and villagers can continue to marvel at the giant creature.
The 50-year-old crocodile was discovered dead on Sunday when he was found floating upside down with a bloated stomach. Wildlife experts will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
Lolong was initially captured in 2011 after being found responsible for several human deaths, including a child and a missing fisherman. Yet, despite the reputation as a man-eater, the town is saddened by the loss of the giant beast and the notoriety and tourism money it brought to the obscure community. The villagers also felt Lolong, who was named for an environmental officer that died while traveling to Bunawan to help trap the reptile, represented the rich natural biodiversity of the region, which is made up of a variety of wetlands and is home to unique animal species, such as the threatened Philippine hawk eagle.
“The whole town, in fact the whole province, is mourning,” Mayor Edwin Cox Elorde said. “My phones kept ringing because people wanted to say how affected they are.”
Local spiritual leaders plan to hold a tribal funeral rite on Monday at the ecotourism park, which will include prayers and the butchering of animals to thank the forest spirits for the blessings the crocodile brought the town.
The 2,000 lb Lolong measured 20 feet 3 inches, and was recognized last year by Guinness World Records as the largest saltwater crocodile in captivity, taking the title from an Australian crocodile that weighs almost a ton and is around 17-feet long.