A world-record 21-foot-long saltwater crocodile, named Lolong, is being held in a penned pond in the Philippines on charges of eating human. He could receive a life sentence as a tourist attraction, but People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is calling for the massive reptile to be released.
The record-setting reptile was caught on Sept. 3 in a remote creek on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao after a three-week croc-hunt.
The 2,370-pound croc was suspected of eating a local man in July in the southern town of Bunawan. The croc may also have bitten the head off a 12-year-old girl in 2009.
"We were very nervous about tackling this beast, but it was our duty to deal with it because it was a threat to many villagers and their farm animals," said the local mayor, Edwin Elorde, in an article in the Daily Mail.
"When I finally saw it after its capture, I couldn't believe my eyes," said Elorde. "It was big enough to swallow three men all at once."
The plan is to make the crocodile the main attraction at a new eco-tourism park in Agusan, Mindanao.
"It will be the biggest star of the park," said Elorde.
"The villagers, of course, are very happy that they have been able to turn this dangerous crocodile from a threat into an asset," Elorde added.
But PETA doesn't think the crocodile should be treated as an asset.
"(The government) should do the compassionate thing and order this crocodile to be returned to his natural habitat, as taking him away to be locked up in an animal prison is just plain wrong," senior Asia-Pacific campaigner Ashley Fruno told the AFP.
"While even those zoos with the best intentions can never replicate the natural environment of animals, how do they expect to come remotely close with a crocodile roughly two or three times the size of a regular adult?" said Fruno.
The crocodile is the largest of his kind in captivity. An Australian 18-footer was the previous record-holder. Though larger specimens have been reported in the wild, such reports are difficult to verify. The Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, but the status needs updating, as the species was last assessed in 1996.
IMAGE: Crocodylus porosus – Saltwater Crocodile at Dundee Wildlife Park, Murray Bridge, South Australia (Wikimedia Commons)