M’LANG, North Cotabato—The return to its natural habitat of Malang, the freshwater crocodile captured here on April 12, highlighted efforts to conserve crocodiles, raising awareness of the endangered status of crocodiles and of the need to protect the place they live in.
Some town leaders expressed sadness over the return of Malang to the Liguasan Marsh.
“If I had my way, I want to keep Malang to show our place is rich in endangered species and biodiversity,” said Freddie Sales, former councilor. “But we have laws to obey,” said Sales, who was one of several men who carried Malang, tied to a stretcher-like contraption, to a truck that brought the crocodile back to the wild.
Sales was seen wiping off tears as officials of the town bade Malang goodbye.
At the banks of the Liguasan Marsh, where Malang was captured, Malang was untied. He quickly glided into the water as a sendoff team and at least 250 villagers roared and applauded.
Malang shook its tail so strongly that it created a big splash in the water. Some spectators refused to leave, hoping Malang would resurface, but there would be no more encores for Malang.
Veronica Guzman, manager of the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (PWRCC), who accompanied Malang on his return home, said the crocodile was “in heat and probably now looking for a mate.”
“During the summer season, Philippine crocodiles mate and, in all likelihood, reproduce,” Guzman said.
She said there was a need to boost the population of freshwater crocodiles through human intervention because only about 200 of them, including Malang, remained, either in the wild or in conservation centers such as the PWRCC.
Dr. Cayetano Pomares, an animal science expert at the University of Southern Mindanao, said he was hoping Malang could find a mate on its own and start to reproduce.
At 2.18 meters long, Malang was touted to be the largest freshwater crocodile ever caught. Fishermen who caught Malang on April 12 had demanded P40,000 for him but the local government rejected it.
In a short speech during Malang’s release, Mayor Joselito Piñol asked residents not to capture crocodiles again, saying the animals were not threats.
Guzman nodded, saying crocodiles attack humans only when provoked.
“When you see crocs as you go fishing, just go away, never antagonize the reptile for they are violent if provoked,” she said.