- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 6, 2011

MANILA After Filipino villagers caught a 20-foot-long, 1-ton saltwater crocodile over the weekend, authorities said Tuesday an even bigger killer croc may lurk in creeks of the remote southern region.

The crocodile - weighing 2,370 pounds and estimated to be at least 50 years old - is the biggest caught alive in the Philippines in recent years.

Wildlife officials were trying to confirm whether it is the largest such catch in the world, said Theresa Mundita Lim of the government’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau.

It was captured alive after a three-week hunt in Bunawan township in Agusan del Sur province, where villagers have been terrified.

A child was killed two years ago in the township by a crocodile that was not caught, and a croc is suspected of killing a fisherman missing since July. Villagers witnessed a crocodile killing a water buffalo last month.

Bunawan villagers celebrated after they caught the crocodile. “It was like a feast, so many villagers turned up,” Mayor Edwin Cox Elorde said.

Wildlife official Ronnie Sumiller, who has hunted “nuisance crocodiles” for 20 years and led the team behind the capture in Bunawan, said a search was under way for a possibly larger crocodile he and villagers have seen roaming in the farming town’s marshy outskirts.

“There is a bigger one, and it could be the one creating problems,” Mr. Sumiller told the Associated Press by telephone from Bunawan, about 515 miles southeast of Manila.

“The villagers were saying 10 percent of their fear was gone because of the first capture,” Mr. Sumiller said. “But there is still the other 90 percent to take care of.”

Backed by five village hunters he has trained, Mr. Sumiller has set 20 steel cable traps with an animal carcass as bait along the creek where the first crocodile was caught and in a nearby vast marshland.

Mr. Sumiller said he found no human remains when he induced the captured crocodile to vomit.

He said he also was summoned by Bunawan officials two years ago after a huge crocodile attacked and ate a child from a capsized boat in the marshland. The crocodile was not found at the time.

People in the farming town of about 37,000 people have been told to avoid venturing into marshy areas alone at night, Mr. Elorde said.

Guinness World Records lists a saltwater crocodile caught in Australia as the largest crocodile in captivity, measuring 17 feet, 11.75 inches. Saltwater crocodiles can live for more than 100 years and grow to 23 feet.

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