Belmont Club

When Giant Reptiles Stalked the Earth

Back when I used to hang out in Mindoro island there were stories about crocodiles escaping from breeding farms when the monsoon caused their enclosures to overflow. The crocs would inconvenience residents of the neighboring towns until they could be rounded up.

Now comes a Fox News report that villagers in the a northern Mindanao marsh finally got the permission to capture a big killer croc that had been eating people in the vicinity. It turned out to be 21 feet long and weighed a ton.   The crocodile, with the rather grand name of “Cassius” is bound for a wildlife park where he’s expected to be the star attraction.   The mayor of Bunawan town hired experienced men from Palawan to catch the croc, who at first believed two crocodiles, not one were responsible for the depredations.  They embarked on a hunt which lasted 24 days.

But they may eventually find there is really more than one killer croc. The Daily Mail says that “despite the catch, villagers remain wary because several crocodiles still roam the outskirts of the farming town of about 37,000 people.”

A local newspaper tells a more nuanced story than the English press. According to a Tagalog language report, a dozen traps were set out.  But before being caught by any of them, the giant reptile ate a water buffalo and probably swallowed a 52 year old man called Daniel Austerio.  One of Daniel’s brothers said, “we saw it eating the water buffalo and believe it ate my brother as well.”   Another resident named Lolita Salon said, “we’re still scared because there are more of them out there.”

Maybe. But as they say when you’ve got lemons, make lemonade. Bunawan Mayor Edwin Elorde apparently has dreams of turning the town’s notoriety to account. “We’re going to make this a tourist destination. People are going to come here to see the biggest crocs on earth.” (“Hangad naming gawing itong potential tourist destination. Dito sa aming lugar makikita ang higanteng buwaya.”)

The 8th Wonder of the World

Lost in all the breathless concern about the reptile’s welfare and well being was the toll he took on the villagers. Among other things, the croc is believed to have killed a little boy. Not that he’ll be hungry from now on, because in all probability he’ll be fed more chicken in a day than the entire Austerio family will eat in a month.

It sucks to be poor in Third World Country because you don’t really rate as a full human being. You are something less than an “endangered species” and somewhat more than a swamp leech.  The poor tend not to have a name anyone can remember in the news stories and nobody notices deaths unless they happen in the hundreds and thousands. For example, what’s the greatest passenger sea-tragedy of all time? The Titanic, right? Nope. It’s the MV Dona Paz. On the Night to Remember, 1,500 people died when a 52,000 ton ship sank. On the Night to Forget, 4,375 people drowned when their 1,192 ton ship got turned into a napalm fireball. Even when hundreds die the press usually takes notice only when the deaths are singularly gruesome or semi-comical.

One such fate overtook almost 200 people at  a trash dump site in Payatas, Quezon City about a quarter mile from the city water supply.  After a torrential rain a whole hill of garbage came crashing down in a trashalanche, if you can use the term. Ironically, this dumpsite was established partly because of the outcry over the famous Smokey Mountain. But trash is trash, and whoever thought things got better because the dump was moved to more scenic surroundings never really lived on an garbage heap. On July 10, 2000 heavy rains caused part of it to collapse on a bunch of hovels from which 196 people never emerged.  Many of the bodies were never found and they’re part of the landfill now. Maybe Raymond Chandler would have been moved to write:

What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a croc’s stomach, in a pile of fermenting trash or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell.

But there is a certain perverse distinction to that kind of existence. After all, how many people have “drowned in garbage” as cause of death?  Maybe it’s better not to think that way and take life as it comes. Like this zoo keeper at a “wildlife park” who is feeding another mongo-sized croc his daily chicken. Wait for the croc to come out at 1:40.

Here’s another video of how things look to a croc.

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