Balabac Island Group maintains record of having most number of crocodiles in PH

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PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan – The Balabac Island Group has been able to maintain the record of having the most number of crocodiles in the entire country, according to the Crocodylus Porosus Philippines Inc. (CPPI).

The Balabac Island Group has been able to maintain the record of having the most number of crocodiles in the entire country, according to the Crocodylus Porosus Philippines Inc. (CPPI). (Photo courtesy of PC Baltazar of CPPI and Deseree Abalo of Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center)
The Balabac Island Group has been able to maintain the record of having the most number of crocodiles in the entire country, according to the Crocodylus Porosus Philippines Inc. (CPPI). (Photo courtesy of PC Baltazar of CPPI and Deseree Abalo of Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center)

CPPI Program Director and marine biologist Rainier Manalo said the Balabac Island Group has the highest number of crocodiles in the country when compared to the southern mainland Palawan based on its 2018 survey in the southern part of the province.

“ 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,” he said.

Manalo said that they recorded declines in the population of crocodiles in the early 40s to late 80s, as these animals were heavily hunted for their skin. As many as 2,000 crocodiles were being hunted in just a few months in the past, or from three to four crocodiles a day.

Data from 80s and 90s were based on the 1992 acquisition records of the Crocodile Farming Institute (CFI) in Palawan, with the crocodiles being acquired from the wild population in Palawan and Mindanao.

Manalo said that from 2016 to 2019, CPPI 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 pwede 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 pero pwede naman bilangin ang iba kasi pwede pa rin naman sila mamatay,” Manalo said.

He said that only the Indo-pacific crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) species is 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,” Manalo noted.

He also said that, globally, the IUCN status of Crocodylus porosus was not considered to be at high risk of extinction under the low-risk category. There are about 400,000 non-hatchlings in the wild all throughout its range.

Manalo explained that crocodiles imply a positive in the environment because they are “keystone species” that structure aquatic and terrestrial biotic communities.

He likewise pointed out that CPPI, in partnership with Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center, continues 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.

In order to encourage coexistence, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) developed and issued DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau Technical Bulletin 2020 – 02 or the Protocol for Managing Human – Crocodile Conflict (HCC).

The local government units in Rizal, Bataraza, and Balabac, as well as law enforcers from different agencies, are being trained to be the first responders in case of human and crocodile interaction.