Crocodile attack in Rio Tuba, Palawan revived fears of this merciless predator.
Once again, news on saltwater crocodile attack in Rio Tuba, Palawan revived fear among residents on this merciless predator. About twenty years back, a crocodile also victimized a fisherman, in the same place. It was a 17.5 foot crocodile that sustained a gaping abdominal wound due to a home made fish bomb. Below is a picture of that crocodile with the author who once worked as a research specialist in the crocodile conservation facility located in Puerto Princesa.
That crocodile died a few days after capture because of the wound. Its stomach contents consisted of digested material including an underwear and some pubic hair. Bones are easily degraded in the crocodile's highly acidic stomach and could not be found among the stomach contents.
The victim was cut in half because of the tremendous biting force of the saltwater crocodile. Large crocodiles have an estimated biting force of two tons! Who would survive that.The large, tanned skin together with the skeleton is now displayed in the lobby of the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (PWRCC) (once RP-Japan Crocodile Farming Institute) in Irawan, Puerto Princesa.
The present crocodile that victimized a resident of Rio Tuba as of this writing is still at large. It is possible that this crocodile is of the same size as that predator two decades back. It must be big because crocodiles consume prey proportionate to its size. Large crocodiles feed on large prey while smaller ones make do with smaller prey.
According to news reports, a fisherman in his mid-thirties was missing the past few days while out to gather firewood. According to Police Chief Nangit of Bataraza, the body was found floating early in the morning yesterday, apparently with the crocodile still biting the torso. Searchers surrounded the body and scared off the crocodile with torch batteries. They were then able to retrieve the mangled body where the left leg was missing.
Such attacks happen whenever humans unwittingly venture into the habitat of the crocodiles. The male crocodile in particular exhibits territorial behavior and would defend its territory which overlaps the smaller territories of females. Common habitats frequented by saltwater or estuarine crocodiles are the mangrove areas which is extensive in the area where the attack happened (marked with yellow boundaries in the figure below). Estuaries are rich in aquatic life and would sustain a large predator such as the crocodile.
Looking closely at the map and enlarging it interestingly reveals extensive development has taken place on land next to the mangrove area. Many houses can be seen both along the major river and on land. This means that human population has expanded which requires greater amount of natural resources to support. Presumably for this reason, human-crocodile encounter became much more frequent which resulted to such incident above. Unless this large crocodile is removed from its habitat or caution exercised by the residents by not venturing into the crocodile's habitat, more incidents of crocodile attack may occur.
Crocodiles are known to increase about a foot annually. This means that this predator crocodile may have been just a small hatchling when that 17.5 foot crocodile, which may have been its parent, was caught twenty years ago.
Well, what can you expect from a reptile with just a cigar-sized brain? Despite this apparent setback, however, crocodiles are not to be underestimated. These animals survived for more than 200 million years because of their keen sense of smell, sight and sound perception as well as general adaptability to dangerous situations.
Meanwhile, on July 11, 2011, news spread out about the capture of 13.7 foot crocodile in Rio Tuba by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) Enforcement Team composed of personnel from PCSD, Palawan State University (PSU) and Palawan Wildlife Rescue & Conservation Center (PWRCC). It is possible that this may be the killer crocodile that victimized the fisherman. A gastric lavage will have to be done to find evidence that this animal was responsible for the killing. A gastric lavage is done by inserting a plastic tube inside the secured mouth of the crocodile to access the stomach, pouring water into it on a diagonal, upward position then tilting the crocodile down to enable it to regurgitate its stomach contents.
It will be difficult to make a conclusive statement about this crocodile being "guilty" because if it ever did ingest a human leg with a bony part, nothing will remain of it because the crocodile's stomach is quite acidic. The search will be for the presence of human hair from the left leg of the victim as hair can resist digestion.
©23 June 2011 Patrick A. Regoniel Crocodile Attack in Rio Tuba, Palawan