Saturday, June 23, 2012

Lolong officially the world's largest crocodile in captivity

Back in November 2011 I visited Bunawan in the Philippines to provide independent verification for the length of Lolong, a reportedly "6.4 m" saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) which had been captured in early September. I was asked to do this by Natural History New Zealand and National Geographic for several reasons, one of which is because I'm quite skeptical about reports of giant crocodiles. It was clear from the photographs and footage that Lolong was a large crocodile, but actually putting a tape measure against it was going to be the ultimate test.

In front of the assembled news media, several hundred visitors, local officials, members of the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (PWRCC), Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) and others, I was filmed measuring Lolong accurately using two different methods. The result of that filming will appear in a National Geographic documentary to be aired in the fairly near future, although I don't know the precise date unfortunately. Animal Planet has already aired a documentary about Lolong which they filmed after ours, but the Nat Geo show will show the actual official measurement.

In the meantime, Guinness World Records have accepted my measurement and the evidence provided by National Geographic, and declared Lolong the largest crocodile in captivity at 6.17 m (20.24 ft, or approximately 20 ft 3 in). Here's a photograph of the certificate to prove it:

Of course, Lolong won't actually appear in the Guinness World Records book until the next edition is published in 2013. I'm not sure when they will revise the listing on their website either, but it will presumably happen sometime between now and the publication of the next edition of the Book.

You'll see a few other measurements out there if you Google around, but 6.17 m is the correct one. The original rough measurement of "6.4 m" is occasionally seen, as is the equivalent in feet of "21.1 ft". National Geographic also reported this figure from the original September news story, but our official measurement in November supercedes it. You'll also see "21.1 ft" associated with the November measurement, but that came about because someone in the enclosure mistakenly converted the measurement we took in metres into feet before we double-checked it. A handful of the media, instead of waiting for the official measurement, ran with what they overheard in the enclosure and ended up getting it very wrong. Some sources have then converted this back into metres, further compounding the confusion.

Isn't it amazing how, even in a cut-and-dried case like this, a huge amount of confusion and misinformation can so easily arise? It's no wonder there are so many giant crocodile myths out there.

So congratulations Lolong for amazing the skeptic in me. I didn't expect to ever see a crocodile greater than 20 feet long (just over 6 meters) in my lifetime, not an experience I will forget easily. There are some who believe that Lolong should be released back into the wild, but that's simply not possible anymore. He was blamed for the death of at least two people, and whether this is true or not local people felt that he represented a serious threat to their safety. Had he not been removed, it's likely he'd be dead by now. It's difficult to appreciate just how real an issue this is unless you live with crocodiles on your doorstep.

The Mayor is committed to investing money earned from displaying Lolong into the protection of Agusan Marsh, and Lolong is now inspiring people in the Philippines to perhaps respect crocodiles a little bit more. Given the status of the Critically Endangered Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) they need all the help they can get. But one final piece of good news for this post, and truthfully what all this has been leading up towards. As a result of the recent attention brought to crocodiles by Lolong and by recent high-profile meetings (IUCN SSC Crocodile Specialist Group) and release events (for C. mindorensis) attended by people like Michel Lacoste, the Philippine government has recently introduced a Senate Resolution to increase protection of both species of crocodiles in the Philippines. This is excellent progress.


Paul said...

"It's difficult to appreciate just how real an issue this is unless you live with crocodiles on your doorstep".

... A truer word never spoken Doc.

Living in the tropics of N.Australia as I do, this is an extremely polarising issue. But I don't believe it's a complicated one.

I personally head out on the rivers and creeks to spot crocs, I enjoy it as they fascinate me - I also work in their habitat often and take as much care as possible to reduce the chances of being injured or killed by a salty.

It seems to me that many people consider being human as some form of entitlement for exclusion from the food chain and behave accordingly.

The trouble is no-one tells the crocs, or bears or sharks ... etc.

So to me education is the key. Which in turn is why I try to follow the work that you do mate.

Keep up the good work - and if you're ever in the neighbourhood, I'll buy you a beer.


Vancatu said...

You've done a good job with the measurement and I'm a little suprised why it took Guinness so long to recognise it.

Lolong is a magnificant animal and a true monster. He's what's left of the Jurassic era and should be considered sacred. He definitely needs a bigger enclosure because it's sad that he's laying around there all day doing nothing. They should feed him a living prey every month, like a goat. That would surely cheer him up!

eszter said...

All grat to this serious result with the official measurements, but I think so many people would like to know, how big the new "Recorder" in weight! too

Please write here the True, ...again !!

Major König said...

Thank you for the answer (asking before) of the weight measurement Lolong's.

November 14.2012 9:44 PM

Adam Britton said...

Lolong was weighed at 1,075 kg (2,370 lbs) at a truck weighbridge (taking into account the weight of the trailer of course). This falls almost exactly on the predicted line of mass against total length, suggesting he was a healthy, average weight for his size.

Major König said...

Thank you for the particular answer.I have one more question for you, if it's possible:
Is it true for Lolong the head against total- lenght ratio 1:7 or at this size changes it to 1:8 or 1:7.5 ? I think this measurement could give a good answer to a lot of fallacies that make giants from the skull size (when the skull is the one thing can be source to the lenght measurement).
...So no item of head size Lolong's? ( exactly where have to be measure till?) (full skull bone upside on the head or?)

Sorry for the long questions..but I love the CROCS very much!
Thank you for the answers!

Adam Britton said...

I have a paper on this coming out pretty soon in Herpetological Review, once it's out I can go into more detail, but the short version is Lolong's head ratio is closer to 1:9 than 1:7. The relative proportions of the head certainly do change with increasing size, so you can't use a 1:7 ratio for larger crocs and remain accurate.

Head length measurements should be DCL (dorsal cranial length) which is the linear distance between the tip of the upper jaw and the back of the cranial platform.

Major König said...

Thank you for your answers!

...This just is rare answered question in this theme!

JB said...
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JB said...

Hey Adam, just saw Monster Croc Hunt on Nat Geo Wild today. Any thoughts on the reported sightings of a 40ft Croc in the Agusan Marsh? I doubt it could come close to that large of a monster but maybe a 25ft or a 30ft at most?

Thanks again and I have to say you have b*lls of steel! Standing that close to Lolong like it was a sunday walk in the park.

JB said...

Hey Adam, just saw Monster Croc Hunt on Nat Geo Wild today. Any thoughts on the reported sightings of a 40ft Croc in the Agusan Marsh? I doubt it could come close to that large of a monster but maybe a 25ft or a 30ft at most?

Thanks again and I have to say you have b*lls of steel! Standing that close to Lolong like it was a sunday walk in the park.

Adam Britton said...

JB, the 40 foot croc the fisherman claims to have seen isn't supported by any evidence, and I'd say it was impossible - it's just too far outside the size range for this species (I'd say 23 feet is about the limit). Nearly everyone exaggerates the size of crocodiles when they see them in the water, particularly if they are fat / well fed, or have their back raised out of the water. I've heard so many 30 footer claims I could write a book about them, they always turn out to be well within the expected size range.

There are three photos which may have been in the show (I haven't seen it yet) which were clearly of a very large crocodile, possibly similar in size to Lolong, but that's half the size of what the fisherman was claiming.

Vancatu said...

One thing that makes me wonder about this other large crocodile that is still out there is whether this crocodile is possibly a sibling of Lolong. Otherwise it would be suprising to say the least that these two crocodiles were tolerating each other. It's quite common in the wild (lion's for instance) that sibling males tolerate each other and often even hunt together due to their kinship.