MLANG, North Cotabato -- A 7.5-foot Philippine crocodile captured in the Liguasan Marsh almost a month ago was released back into the wild on Friday by officials of Mlang, North Cotabato and the environment department.
The release of Malang, named after the town, was witnessed by some 250 people.
Mlang Mayor Joselito Pinol, who had taken custody of Malang from the fishermen who captured the giant reptile, said the crocodile appeared “excited,” wiggling its tail during the two-hour journey from the town to the marsh.
Pinol also said other crocodiles in the 220,000-hectare marshland appeared to have anticipated Malang’s return.
"We saw some footprints of crocodiles in the spot where we freed Malang, an indication they were there before we came," Pinol said.
Veronica Guzman, center head of the Philippine Wildlife Protection and Conservation Center, who witnessed the release of Malang, said the male crocodile was apparently looking for a mate.
"We noticed some signs it was fertile so we are considering sending a female crocodile from Palawan to be released in the marshland," she said, adding that the Philippine crocodile population is estimated to be less than 200.
As Malang was untied and gently prodded towards the water, it wiggled its tail. And when he began to swim away the crowd roared and applauded.
The team, led by Pinol, waited for few minutes hoping for a last glimpse of Malang but left when dark began to set in.
Aside from being home to a rich variety of mostly endangered flora and fauna, the marshland that straddles the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat is also a hideaway of criminal gangs.
Hernand Dapudong, who had been tasked to take care of Malang while the crocodile was kept in a shallow cage beside the Mlang town hall could not keep from weeping when the reptile was freed.
"I am sad because I could not see Malang anymore at the same time happy because I know it is now with other endangered species in the marsh," Dapudong told reporters.
Just as Mlang was preparing to release Malang, farmers in the town turned over to local officials a family of three endangered tarsiers, the world’s smallest primates, which they had found Thursday while clearing ground for rice paddies.
Pinol had the tarsiers turned over to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.