| World's largest captive crocodile dies in Philippines|
|A southern Philippine town plans to hold funeral rites for the world's largest saltwater crocodile and then preserve its remains in a museum to attract tourists and prevent their community from slipping back into obscurity, the town's mayor said on Monday.|
The one-tonne crocodile was declared dead on Sunday a few hours after flipping over with a bloated stomach in a pond in an ecotourism park in Bunawan town, which had started to draw tourists, revenue and development because of the immense reptile, the town's mayor, Edwin Cox Elorde, said.
"The whole town, in fact the whole province, is mourning," Elorde said from Bunawan in Agusan del Sur province. "My phones kept ringing because people wanted to say how affected they are."
Guinness World Records had proclaimed it the largest saltwater crocodile in captivity last year, measuring the giant at 6.17 metres (20.24ft). The reptile took the top spot from an Australian crocodile that measured more than 5 metres (17ft) and weighed nearly a tonne.
The crocodile was named Lolong, after a government environmental officer who died from a heart attack after travelling to Bunawan to help capture the beast. The crocodile, estimated to be more than 50 years old, was blamed for killing a number of villagers before Bunawan folk came to love it.
The giant reptile has come to symbolise the rich biodiversity of Agusan marsh, where it was captured. The vast complex of swamp forests, shallow lakes, lily-covered ponds and wetlands is home to wild ducks, herons, egrets and threatened species including the Philippine Hawk Eagle.
Wildlife experts were due to perform an autopsy as early as Monday to determine the cause of its death, Elorde said.
Bunawan villagers planned to perform a tribal ritual, which involves butchering chickens and pigs as funeral offerings to thank forest spirits for the fame and other blessings the crocodile has brought, Elordie said. A group of Christians would separately offer prayers before the autopsy.
The rites will be held at the ecotourism park, where the reptile had emerged as a star attraction, drawing foreign tourists, scientists and wildlife reporting outfits like the National Geographic to Bunawan, a town of 37,000 people about 515 miles (830km) south-east of Manila.
The crocodile's capture in September 2011 sparked celebrations in Bunawan, but it also raised concerns that more giant crocodiles might lurk in a marshland and creek where villagers fish. The crocodile was captured with steel cable traps during a hunt prompted by the death of a child in 2009 and the later disappearance of a fisherman. Water buffalo have also been attacked by crocodiles in the area.
About 100 people led by Elorde pulled the crocodile from a creek using a rope and then hoisted it by crane on to a truck.
Philippine officials had planned to construct a road to the park to accommodate the growing number of tourists, Elorde said, adding he planned to have the crocodile preserved and placed in a museum so Bunawan villagers and tourists could still marvel at it.
"I'd like them to see the crocodile that broke a world record and put our town on the map," he said.