More than half of the existing known population of saltwater crocodiles in Palawan are found in its southernmost town of Balabac, according to a local expert.
Rainier Manalo, director of the Crocodylus Porosus Philippines Inc. (CPPI), said the latest survey done in 2018 had identified three areas in Balabac as the concentration crocodile populations in Palawan.
“Bugsuk, Ramos, and Balabac Islands are the areas with the highest number of crocodiles. More than half, or 54 percent of this wild population is present in the Island of Bugsuk,” Manalo said.
He noted that the Crocodile Farming Institute (CFI) in Palawan since 1992 had acquired its crocodiles from the wild population in Palawan and in Mindanao.
Manalo said that from 2016 to 2019, CPPI has surveyed 19 rivers in the southern Palawan and obtained a corrected average density of 0.95 non-hatchlings/km.
“We recorded an estimated wild crocodile population of 519 non-hatchlings in 2019. Non-hatchlings kasi ibig sabihin ay puwede na sila lumaban sa ibang predator or hindi na sila prone sa environmental stress. Ang scientific count kasi sa kanila ay one year na sila [mula noong pinanganak] pero puwede naman bilangin ang iba kasi puwede pa rin naman sila mamatay,” Manalo said.
He said that the Indo-pacific crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) species is the only one present in the Islands of Palawan.
“We prefer the English name Indo–Pacific Crocodile to better differentiate its geographic distribution instead of the commonly known habitat of the species which is saltwater.
He said that globally, the IUCN has placed the Crocodylus porosus in the low-risk category. There are about 400,000 non-hatchlings in the wild all throughout its range.
Manalo explained that crocodiles are considered “keystone species” and their presence implies a positive condition of the environment where they are found.
To raise awareness for its proper conservation, Manalo said that CPPI has partnered with the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center continue to conduct information dissemination.
“We continue to distribute information materials to areas that have a crocodile population. Our organization conducts public education and knowledge sharing alongside with our field surveys, we distribute calendars with crocodile reminders signs and reflectorize stickers,” Manalo said.