Giant crocodile with no appetite under stress watch

A 6.1-metre saltwater crocodile that may be the world's largest in captivity has not eaten for six days since its capture in a southern Philippine creek drew worldwide attention.

Saltwater beast about 50 years old captured in southern Philippine creek

Lolong the saltwater crocodile swims in a shallow pond inside its temporary cage at the remote village of Consuelo, in Bunawan township, Agusan Del Sur province in southern Philippines, on Tuesday. The 6.1-metre saltwater crocodile captured last Saturday by villagers and veteran hunters in the creeks of the remote region is under stress watch. ((Associated Press))

A 6.1-metre saltwater crocodile that may be the world's largest in captivity has not eaten for six days since its capture in a southern Philippine creek drew worldwide attention.

Wildlife official Ronnie Sumiller, who led the hunt for the croc nicknamed Lolong, said Friday that the reptile is under close observation for signs of stress.

But he said it's normal for crocodiles to be stressed after being trapped and handled. Even in the wild, they don't normally eat daily, and a crocodile as huge as Lolong can go without food for up to six months, Sumiller said.

Lolong has been placed in an 800-square-metre pen secured by 1.22-metre-tall concrete walls topped by welded wire in Bunawan township, where he was caught last weekend.

"We came here to take a look, because it was reported that on the first few days of his capture ... there were big crowds and some would throw stones to make him move, so we were afraid he might become stressed," said Theresa Mundita Lim, director of the government's Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau.

She flew from the capital to southern Agusan del Sur province Friday to talk with local officials about guidelines for onlookers and to inspect the crocodile's new home 830 kilometres southeast of Manila.

Hunted for 3 weeks

Bunawan Mayor Edwin Cox Elorde said Lolong did not budge when a dead chicken was laid nearby to whet its appetite.

He said although officials tried to restrict the public viewing of the crocodile, small groups of visitors who travelled from afar pleaded to be allowed to see the reptile.

The scaly skinned Lolong, which weighs more than a tonne, is estimated to be at least 50 years old. Wildlife officials were trying to confirm whether it was the largest such catch in the world, Lim said.

It was captured after a three-week hunt, easing some fears among the locals. A child was killed two years ago in the same township by a crocodile, and a croc is suspected of killing a fisherman who has been missing since July. Last month, residents saw a crocodile killing a water buffalo.

But Sumiller said he found no human remains when he induced Lolong to vomit. Another search was being arranged for a possibly larger croc that he and residents had spotted in the town's marshy outskirts.