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Silangan to be sent back to its natural habitat

 • 20:57 PM Sun Apr 17, 2016
Edwin O. Fernandez
Soon back to its habitat, Silangan, the 8-foot-long freshwater fish was searching for food when fisher folks in Barangay Kuyapon, Kabacan, North Cotabato captured him. (DENR-North Cotabato photo)

KIDAPAWAN CITY ---Environment officials
and researchers will return back to the wild an 8-foot crocodile captured by
a fisherman in Kabacan, North Cotabato after research works and medication are
over, officials said.

Dr. Cayetano Pomares, a veterinarian of the
University of Southern Mindanao (USM-Kabacan), said research on the freshwater
crocodile named Silangan is going on while treatment period for the
wounds is being observed at the North Cotabato provincial capitol grounds in Kidapawan

Forester Michael Bao of Department of Environment
and Natural Resources (DENR) said the reptile, believed to be 80 kilos in
weight, was catched by a fisherman because it went out of its natural habitat
looking for food.

Rising temperature, forest fire and
destruction of its natural habitat are forcing wild animals to wander and find
food, Bao told reporters.

Freshwater crocodiles, like Silangan are
affected by climate change too, especially with the extreme heat affecting the
Liguasan marshland in Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

The 8-foot long crocodile (Crocodylus Mindorensis)
was captured by Mamangkas Mamatong of Barangay Kuyapon, Kabacan, North Cotabato
early last week.

Mamatong told reporters that he was to harvest his
mud fish catch in an indigenous fish traps when he noticed the reptile feasting
on his captured mud and cat fishes.

I called on my neighbors to help me save my
catch and eventually we captured the crocodile, Mamatong told reporters.

It was so huge and appeared to be very
hungry, he added. The crocodile resisted and tried to escape but he
too was trapped, so we tied it and brought up from the marshland.

He said due to lack of income, the villagers
suggested they kill the crocodile and sell its meat while make its skin as bags
and belts.

We can make money out of it but our village
officials prevented us, Mamatong said, adding that he agreed it must be
turned over to environment officials. He was later told it was a crime to
capture, or kill, an endangered species.

Bao said the reptile has injuries due to the
traditional methods used by fishermen in capturing it.

Pomares said the wounds were not life-threatening.

Named Silangan (east) because it was
captured east of the 200,000 hectares marshland, the crocodile left its natural
habitat because of continued receding of river waters, extreme heat and lack of

Pomares estimated the remaining fresh water
crocodile in the country to be at 150 to 200.

We would like to reiterate our appeal to fisher
folks in the marshland not to catch or harm crocodiles and other endangered
species found in the Liguasan marshland, Bao said. Just let them go
if they happened to enter in your communities, he added.

In April 2014,
a 2.18 fresh water crocodile captured by fishermen in Mlang, North
Cotabato was also released back to its natural habitat after some research were
conducted by environment officials.

It was named Malang in honor of the town
of Mlang where it was captured.

Malang is believed to be the largest Philippine
freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus Mindorensis) ever caught. The
critically endangered species can grow to a maximum of 3.05 meters, according
to wildlife journals.

But local DENR officials said there could be
freshwater crocodiles larger than Malang, which have been living on the
220,000-hectare Liguasan Marshland straddling the provinces of North Cotabato,
Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat.

Other environment officials said aside from freshwater
crocodiles, saltwater crocodiles could be existing in the marsh. (Edwin O.

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