PWRCC team leader Salvador Guion (middle) is seen in this photo while securing male saltwater crocodile "Singko" after it was captured on December 1, 2018, in Carandungan Bay, Barangay Poblacion 5, Balabac. A rug covers the eyes of the crocodile to calm it from being aggressive during the extraction process. (Photo courtesy of the PWRCC/PCSDS)
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Wildlife authorities here confirmed Wednesday that “Singko” is the problem crocodile that attacked and killed a fisherman recently in Balabac town, southern Palawan.
Salvador Guion, crocodile hunting expert and chief of the technical section of the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (PWRCC), said male saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) Singko is 100 percent the “accidental attacker” of Balabac fisherman Cornelio Bonete who was killed on November 28.
He said they know this without subjecting the 15.6-foot crocodile to a gastric lavage.
Guion was part of the team that also captured "Lolong," the 20-foot three-inch saltwater crocodile in Bunawan Creek, Agusan del Sur in September 2011.
“This analysis is based on our behavioral observation of the crocodile, then community information on what is the size of the crocodile that stays in the area, where the accidental attack happened. And considering other reports, the percentage is high that he is the attacker,” Guion said in the local vernacular during a press conference called by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS).
Singko was caught using a cable snare trap with goat meat in the afternoon of Dec. 1 at Carandungan Bay, Poblacion 5, Balabac by the PWRCC team he led.
Guion explained that while in the area during their “verbal conversation,” they placed the possibility that it is the problem crocodile they are looking for at 95 percent.
After securing the crocodile, he said, they went back to Carandungan Bay to get the reaction of the Bonete family since they personally saw the crocodile before the attack.
He said Efren Bonete, the eldest brother of the victim, confirmed that it was the problem crocodile because of a “marking point on its tail.”
“He said it is the crocodile that attacked his brother because of a wound on its tail. The crocodile got the wound when its tail hit the outrigger of the victim’s fishing boat,” Guion added.
He explained this “5 percent-worth” testimony from Efren was added to their 95 percent suspicion to be able to confirm Singko as the attacker.
Meanwhile, PWRCC director Ronie Gandeza explained that veterinarian Dr. Terry Aquino ruled against conducting the gastrointestinal decontamination on “Singko” because it was already stressed at that time it was transported to their facility.
Gandeza added Aquino recommended the crocodile’s immediate release from its safety enclosure to prevent it from being seriously affected by the stress it suffered since it was captured.
“In her assessment, she said the animal was already in so much stress, it already needs to be released inside its pen, or the gastric lavage will cause its death. She said it’s no longer advisable due to the delay in the transportation to the city,” the PWRCC director said.
Gandeza said the PWRCC team was already “sure” that it was the problem crocodile, so it was agreed upon that gastric lavage test to determine the content of its stomach is no longer necessary.
Guion said the conduct of gastric lavage is really part of the protocol in crocodile extraction, but in Singko’s case, his physical condition was considered.
“Gastric lavage is a very stressful procedure, and if we conduct it, it will add to his stress and can even cause its death. We decided not to do it anymore,” he added.
Based on verified reports shown by the PCSDS, the first crocodile attack in Palawan was recorded in October 2000 in Sayab River, Barangay Tagnato, Bataraza, PCSDS spokesperson Jovic Fabello said.
It was a “non-fatal attack” by a 12-foot saltwater crocodile on a 48-year-old fisherman who was cleaning his boat.
Since then until February 2018, the number of attacks that had been recorded in the province has reached 24. This figure does not include yet the attack on Cornelio and four others in recent months.
Of the total, nine attacks caused the death of the victims while 15 were non-fatal.
In southern Palawan, crocodile sightings have been reported in the towns of Quezon, Bataraza, Rizal, and Balabac, Fabello added.
In the northern side, San Vicente town recorded a single attack in August 2010. The victim was a 45-year-old seaweed farmer who was harvesting his produce.
But the most number of crocodile attacks were recorded in the towns of Bataraza with nine and Balabac with 10.
Balabac recorded four deaths due to crocodile attack while Rizal had two and three in the town of Bataraza.
Gandeza said Singko will not be part of the saltwater crocodiles that are open for public viewing. He will only be offered to be one if he "is no longer productive."
"No, he will not be for public viewing. We will assess him to become one of our breeders since they said he has good genes," Gandeza added. (PNA)