A crocodile inhabiting an estuarine river has sown fear among residents of the island barangay of Batas in Taytay town.
Barangay Councilor Angelito Abrina said residents have reported repeated sightings of the crocodile since November.
“Many residents reported seeing it on an almost daily basis,” he told Palawan News Thursday.
Barangay Batas sits on the boundary of Taytay, Linapacan and El Nido towns.
He claimed that last week, his cousin and two of his siblings went out into the river to see the crocodile for themselves and had seen the crocodile.
“About four arms stretch from them, they saw the crocodile’s piercing eyes with its body almost submerged in the waters,” he added. “Their estimation was it’s around two arms stretch from head to tail.”
Indo-pacific crocodiles, also known as estuarine crocodiles or “salties,” are normally found in coastal waters, estuarine rivers and freshwater habitats such as lakes, rivers and creeks.
“They are known to occasionally venture into marine habitats and intertidal coastal areas when they are moving between coastal rivers,” according to Levita Lagrada, a wildlife specialist with the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS).
In the Philippines, aside from Palawan, salties’ population remain in only a few scattered locations in Mindanao, particularly in the periphery of Ligawasan Marsh, Panguil Bay, Zamboanga Sibugay, Tawi-Tawi and Del Carmen in Siargao Island.
Indo-pacific crocodiles are also reported to inhabit in three rivers in the eastern foothill of the Northern Sierra Madre National Park in Isabela province.
Lagrada, who worked for the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (PWRCC) for years, said crocodiles are considered to be territorial and will defend their territory when human intrudes into their natural habitat.
“A quality habitat for this creature should not be lower than 10 km length of the river, but because of increase in human activities of villages and communities along the rivers and coastal areas, the suitable habitat for this species has continued to reduce,” she said.
Abrina, meanwhile, suspects that the mangrove charcoal-making inside the mangrove-fringed river in his island barangay has caused the crocodile sightings. “The last time we went there we chanced upon charcoal furnaces and destroyed them,” the councilor said.
According to Lagrada, habitat loss through the destruction of mangroves for charcoal-making or house-building is among the contributing factors of the occurrence of crocodile sightings.
“To keep the crocodiles’ habitat intact, local leaders have to create a program on habitat enrichment and restoration through re-introduction of mangroves,” the wildlife specialist said.
“Another one is providing their constituents with alternative livelihood, which, in one way or another, will veer them away from destructing or encroaching the mangrove forests that harbor the crocodiles.”
Lagrada said crocodiles seen within a one-kilometer range from the general public or the barangay proper suggest that they may likely be attracted to live food prey like livestock and other domestic animals, and other high-protein waste food materials being dumped on river banks or beach areas.
So far, Abrina said there has been no reported crocodile attack on people reported in his locality, except for cases of dogs missing after they ventured near the river.
Meanwhile, PWRCC Wildlife Section Chief Salvador Guion instructed the barangay officials to write a letter to PCSD, which implements the Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act in Palawan.c
“We advise them to write a letter so we can schedule an assessment in the area and also conduct information drive with the community,” he told Palawan News.