Wildlife experts have proposed the identification of areas in southern Palawan that will be declared as “critical habitat” for crocodiles, to allow for their proper management and minimize the risks faced by local communities.
The proposal came in the wake of reports of numerous sightings of crocodiles within populated areas in Balabac which experts have attributed to the disturbance of their natural habitats.
Rainier Manalo, Program Director of Crocodile Research and Conservation Program, Crocodylus Porosus Philippines, said there is a need to conduct a study to determine crocodile’s population and density, specifically in Southern Palawan.
The target areas for study, Manalo said, are four barangays in Balabac, including Rabor, at least two barangays in Quezon and Canipaan in Rizal town.
“Kasi ang tingin namin, kung intact ang kanilang habitat, just as like as any wildlife, mali-lessen ang kanilang human interaction,” Manalo told Palawan News.
According to a study of the Crocodile Specialist Group, there are around 346 estimated population of crocodiles both in small and mainland rivers of Southern, Palawan based on spotlight count data. 214 of which can be found in Bugsuk, Balabac while there are only 8 in Rabor.
Other barangays with reported crocodile presence are: Canipaan Rizal – 21, Sumbiling, Bataraza – 13, Tukanigalo, Balabac – 25, Dalit, Balabac – 15, Agutayan, Balabac – 13, Pasig, Balabac – 14.
Last week, crocodiles were spotted near Rabor Elementary School in Balabac.
Manalo said they have already conducted information and dissemination campaign in the area.
“Narating na namin ‘yun, alam na nila kung saan madalas pumupunta buwaya at saka kung ano oras lumalabas,” he explained.
But he also admitted that it is but natural for some people to be scared because “kakaiba nga naman kasi itsura ng crocodile, kaya parang laging naha-hype sa media.”
Regardless of crocodile’s unique feature, Manalo said that it is very important for people in the community to understand human and crocodile’s co-existence.
Manalo said a composite team is also set to conduct another survey, assessment and an information drive in Rabor in September.