By Erwin M. Mascariñas
Pilar, Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte — A non-government organization specializing on crocodile research and conservation has stepped up its research study on the critically endangered Philippine Crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) on its introduced habitat in Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte.
Rainier I. Manalo, program head of crocodile research and conservation of the Crocodylus Porosus Philippines Incorporated (CPPI) explained that the Philippine Crocodile is a smaller freshwater cousin of the more abundant Salt-water Crocodile (Crocodylus Porosus).
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species website, fewer than 200 adults are estimated to persist in the wild and the population may be declining despite re-introduction attempts. There has been an observed decline in the overall population of 82% in the known localities and an estimated and inferred decline in the number of adults in the population by 85%-94% over the last three generations. Habitat loss, persecution, and entanglement in fishing nests are the primary ongoing threats. Based upon this past decline, the Philippine Crocodile is assessed as Critically Endangered.
“What we aim now is to further understand the behavior of these fresh water crocodile here on their new habitat five years after they were introduced into Paghungawan Marsh in the town of Pilar. Initially, the aim of the introduction was to enhance the current knowledge on the biology of the species and to contribute to the tourism industry on the island. Now the crocodiles that we released five years ago are adults and on their reproductive stages. Hopefully, we can further monitor and continue our research study that will lead to understand these creatures more,” Manalo added.
On July 27, the three-man team from CPPI successfully installed radio transmitters on two female mature crocodiles in Barangay Jaboy, Pilar town and then released the following day.
“We took two mature female Philippine Crocodile from their habitat in the Paghungawan Marsh and then we successfully attached and installed a radio transmitter on their back,” said Manalo.
Manalo explained that “the radio transmitters that we tagged on the crocodiles will help us understand as to their range or how far they travel along the protected wetlands. This will also serve as baseline data in terms of over all distance of movement for future study as well as for other areas that might seem fit to introduce these species of crocodile.”
According to Manalo, the Philippine Crocodile is a very shy reptile which usually hides underneath small caves and crevices along the wetlands.
The Philippine Crocodile is protected by law since 2001 under Republic Act 9147: The Wildlife Act.