MANILA, Philippines -- Villagers and veteran hunters have captured a one-ton saltwater crocodile which they plan to make the star of a planned ecotourism park in a southern Philippine town, an official said Monday.
Mayor Edwin Cox Elorde said dozens of villagers and experts ensnared the 21-foot male crocodile along a creek in Bunawan township in Agusan del Sur province after a three-week hunt. It could be one of the largest crocodiles to be captured alive in recent years, he said, quoting local crocodile experts.
Elorde said the crocodile killed a water buffalo in an attack witnessed by villagers last month and was also suspected of having attacked a fisherman who went missing in July.
He said he sought the help of experts at a crocodile farm in western Palawan province.
"We were nervous but it's our duty to deal with a threat to the villagers," Elorde told The Associated Press by telephone. "When I finally stood before it, I couldn't believe my eyes."
After initial sightings at a creek, the hunters set four traps, which the crocodile destroyed. They then used sturdier traps using steel cables, one of which finally caught the enormous reptile late Saturday, he said.
About 100 people had to pull the crocodile, which weighs about 2,370 pounds, from the creek to a clearing where a crane lifted it into a truck, he said.
The crocodile was placed in a fenced cage in an area where the town plans to build an ecotourism park for species found in a vast marshland in Agusan, an impoverished region about 515 miles (830 kilometers) southeast of Manila, Elorde said.
"It will be the biggest star of the park," Elorde said, adding that villagers were happy that they would be able to turn the dangerous crocodile "from a threat into an asset."
Despite the catch, villagers remain wary because several crocodiles still roam the outskirts of the farming town of about 37,000 people.
They have been told to avoid venturing into marshy areas alone at night, Elorde said.