MANILA –Canadian animal rights activist Ashley Fruno, 24, a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA),has urged the Philippine government to free a 21-foot-long giant crocodile, named Lolong, caught on Sept. 3 in the town of Bunawan in Agusan del Sur, Mindanao.
The reptile was caught by a team of 30 men,led by Rollie Sumiller, following a three-week hunt.
But Sumiller earlier said that removing from the wild a huge reptile suspected of attacking humans is the correct thing to do.
Lolong, considered to be the world’s largest crocodile in captivity, pending confirmation from Guinness World Records officials, is suspected of eating a local man who went missing in July and of killing a 12-year-old girl whose head was bitten off in 2009.
“(The government) should do the compassionate thing and order this crocodile to be returned to his natural habitat, as taking him away to be locked up in an animal prison is just plain wrong,” Fruno wrote in her statement.
Penned animals are prone to psychotic behavior and its immense size and power could prove dangerous to visitors and those caring for it, she warned.
“While even those zoos with the best intentions can never replicate the natural environment of animals, how do they expect to come remotely close with a crocodile roughly two or three times the size of a regular adult?”, Fruto asked.
Town officials are preparing to make the 1,075-kilogram saltwater crocodile the star of its planned eco-tourism park.
“There’s a lot of people on our side,” she told the Now. “We’re getting more support every day.”
Fruno said publicity over the crocodile’s continuing captivity has become an “embarrassment” to a lot of people in the Philippines. She wants the animal to be released in a remote area away from people before it falls into a state called “zoochosis.”
“This mental illness is marked in other species by symptoms such as pacing, neck-twisting, head-bobbing, bar-biting and other repetitive behaviours,” Fruno said. “When you consider the immense size and power of the crocodile in question, his zoochosis symptoms could prove to be incredibly dangerous for both the staff, visitors and other crocodiles within the enclosure.”
The animal-rights activist is from Cloverdale in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. She is a senior campaigner for PETA Asia-Pacific and is well known for staging media stunts to attract attention to PETA’s causes, including standing naked outside department stores to protest against the sale of fur coats. She has participated in eye-catching demonstrations in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, and elsewhere around the world.
Fruno’s family lives in Cloverdale. Although she’s currently stationed in Asia, she said, “Cloverdale’s always my home.”
Meanwhile, “Guinness World Records officials are currently awaiting further evidence in order to verify if a record has been broken,” the almanac said in its website.
Currently, the record for the largest salt-water crocodile in captivity is held by a reptile in Australia.
“Cassius Clay,” a brute named after the famed Afro-American heavy weight boxer, was caught in the wilds of Australia’s Northern Territories in 1984.
In 2008, he was measured to have reached a length of 5.4 metres. The animal had been had been featured in a double-page spread in the 2012 edition of Book of Records.
Cassius’s record size face serious challenge from the Philippines’ contender for the title “biggest saltwater crocodile”.
While officials in Bunawan are waiting for the arrival of Guinness and National Geographic representatives, experts are trying to acclimatize Lolong to his new surroundings in Bunawan Eco-Park at at the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary.
According to reports, while Lolong had shown movement after be was placed in a pen inside the park, he has ot been eating since, causing concern over his health.
However, experts believe that in the wild the species is known to survive without food for months after a meal.