Lumpy Rock Crab (Euxanthus exsculptus)
Tanjung Rimau, 24th July 2016

Residents gather around the 14-foot Crocodile found dead in a mangrove area of Del Carmen town in Siargao Island last Thursday (27 October 2016).
Photos: Vincent E. Guarte

Philippines: Fisherfolks in Siargao afraid to venture in mangrove areas after giant Crocodile found dead
By Roel Catoto, 29th October 2016;

A day after a big Crocodile was found dead in Del Carmen town in Siargao Island, several fishermen from the island have been afraid to venture out in the mangrove forest to fish, a village official said.

Ezperanza barangay captain Teodoro Galolo said several fisherfolks in his village have ceased to go to the mangroves for fear of being attacked by Crocodiles.

Last Thursday morning, a Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) 14 feet and 9 inches long was found dead floating along the waterways by the mangroves in Esperanza. The fishermen who found it then reported it to Galolo, the barangay captain said.

On that day, barangay tanods and some personnel from the Sentro Para sa Ikauunlad ng Katutubong Agham at Teknolohiya (Sikat), a non-government organization conducting mangrove assessment in the area, retrieved the dead body of the Crocodile.

“We measured it at 14 feet and 9 inches long, and 2 feet and 8 inches wide,” said Jenny Comon, the barangay secretary of Esperanza.

Galolo said the Crocodile must have died only recently because its body was still not in a state of decomposition when found.

Barangay Esperanza is eight kilometers away from the Del Carmen town center.

“Some of the fishermen have ceased to catch fish and crabs in the mangroves for fear of being attacked by Crocodiles,” Galolo said.

But Jun Comon, a fishermen from Esperanza, said he would continue to fish in the mangroves despite the presence of large Crocodiles, pointing out that his source of income comes mainly from catching Mud Crabs (Scylla sp.) and fish in the mangrove area.

“We know the presence of Crocodiles lurking in the vast mangrove area and that’s part of the challenge. We’re used to it. We need to face it otherwise we go hungry with my family,” he said.

Galolo said they do not know yet the cause of Crocodile’s death.

Missing piglets

Galolo said several villagers have reported that a few months ago, several pigs and piglets had mysteriously gone missing and they believe that it has something to do with presence of Crocodiles lurking around the mangroves.

He said some fishermen had reported having seen Crocodiles even bigger than the one found dead last Thursday.

Del Carmen Mayor Alfredo Coro Jr. said the incident is a major drawback on the town’s efforts on environmental conservation.

“Our personnel, together with those of the non-government organizations and of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), are checking for any foul play that might have caused the death of the Crocodile. I am pushing that the incident be investigated,” the mayor said.

On Friday, a necropsy was conducted by DENR personnel to determine its cause of death, but no result has been released yet as of press time.

“Even though the death is tragic but this will serve as a reminder that the presence of Crocodiles in Del Carmen is not just a legend but a reality and that people should be careful not to swim in the mangrove area as it would be an accident waiting to happen. Such incident would only hamper and create problems for our protection and conservation efforts,” said Coro.

Dianne Animo, program manager of Sikat, expressed that the death of the Crocodile signifies the importance of protection and conservation in Del Carmen.

“This incident signifies the need for a more intensified operation in safeguarding the remaining local population of Saltwater Crocodiles in the wild. It is also significant to point out that the community should be a part of this effort to protect and conserve not only this species but the entire ecosystem,” said Animo.

Fishermen, on the other hand, have reported sightings of the Crocodiles along the mangrove areas in several other barangays in Del Carmen town – Mabuhay, Del Carmen (poblacion), Domoyog Island, San Fernando, Sitio Pangi Antipolo and in San Jose.

Reports also suggest Crocodile sightings in the mangrove areas in the neighboring town of San Benito.

The local government of Del Carmen is planning to preserve the dead Crocodile and display it at the town’s Mangrove Protection Information Center.

‘Witches’ in town

In the past, Del Carmen was known to have witches because of reports of several persons that have reportedly gone missing.

Lawyer John Cubillan, who hails from Del Carmen, said that “Numancia” (the old name of the municipality) was notorious for being a town haunted by aswangs, manananggals and other monsters of local folklore.

That tag may have stemmed from the mysterious disappearance of residents, which were later traced to attacks by Crocodiles lurking in the vast mangrove forests surrounding the town.

Radel Paredes, a columnist of Cebu Daily News whose roots come from Del Carmen, said his grandfather was attacked by a big Crocodile.

“My grandfather was once attacked by a Crocodile while he was rowing a baroto or dugout canoe amidst the mangroves. Luckily, he was able to fight back and drove the reptile away,” he claimed.

Killer turns breeder

In early 1990s a Crocodile named “Kibol” (bobtail) grabbed the headlines in the country after it was captured.

The Crocodile terrorized the coastal towns in Siargao Island at that time for attacking humans.

A 2003 report in the Philippine Star said Kibol has been serving a “lifetime sentence” as the principal breeder in a Crocodile farm in Puerto Princesa in Palawan.

Kibol is a 20-foot killer reptile, which was captured by a special team of Crocodile hunters along the swamps in Del Carmen. It is reportedly now busy “impregnating” young female Crocodiles in the farm.

Source: MindaNews

  • Fig. 1. Dorsal view of Typhlops muelleri.
  • Fig. 2. Ventral view of Typhlops muelleri.
  • Fig. 3. Flattened and dried carcass of Boiga jaspidea.
  • Fig. 4. Flattened and dried carcass of Dasia grisea.
  • Fig. 5. Head of Dasia grisea carcass.

Photographs by Law Ing Sind

Dead White-bellied Blind Snake (Typhlops muelleri), Jasper Cat Snake (Boiga jaspidea), Brown Tree Skink (Dasia grisea) at Upper Peirce

Location, date and time: Singapore Island, Central Catchment Nature Reserve, access road to Upper Peirce Reservoir Park, off Old Upper Thomson Road; 27 August 2016; evening.

Observation: A juvenile Typhlops muelleri of about 10 cm total length (Figs. 1 & 2) was found dead in water in a drain. It is believed to have drowned. A male example of Boiga jaspidea of about 1 m total length (Fig. 3), and an adult Dasia grisea (Figs. 4 & 5) are both flattened and dried roadkills found plastered on the surface of the road. They have probably been dead for more than a day.

Remarks: The three species of reptile herein recorded are recognised as rare in Singapore. Boiga jaspidea and Typhlops muelleri are classified as ‘critically endangered’ while Dasia grisea is regarded as ‘endangered’ (Lim, 2008: 264-265).

All three specimens have been deposited at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at the National University of Singapore, with Boiga jaspi
catalogued as ZRC 2.7225, Typhlops muelleri as ZRC 2.7226 and Dasia grisea as ZRC 2.7227.


  • Lim, K. K. P., 2008. Checklists of threatened species – fishes, amphibians and reptiles. In: Davison, G. W. H., P. K. L. Ng & H. C. Ho (eds.). The Singapore Red Data Book. Threatened Plants & Animals of Singapore. Second edition. Nature Society (Singapore). p. 263-266.

Source: Singapore Biodiversity Records 2016: 145-146

Photo: Friends of PMMSN – Philippine Marine Mammal Stranding Network Facebook

Philippines: A killed Hero
By Michael L. Tan, 26th October 2016;

Each year, dozens of marine mammals — including some 30 species of Dolphins and Whales, plus the Dugong (Dugong dugon) and the Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinereus) — are stranded on Philippine shores. Between 2005 and 2016, there were 692 such incidents documented by the Philippine Marine Mammal Stranding Network (PMMSN), which sends rescue teams and then initiates treatment and rehabilitation.

One of those stranded mammals was Hero, a male Rough-toothed Dolphin (Steno bredanensis) that was found in Calapandayan, Subic, Zambales, on April 9, 2015 (Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor).

There are popular misconceptions that these stranding incidents involve animals trying to commit suicide, but the real story is that these animals strand because of human activities. To be blunt, they don’t kill themselves; they’re killed.

Human garbage

In the case of Hero and many other stranded mammals, dynamite fishing led to acoustic trauma or damage in the animals, which then adversely affected their navigational capabilities. We tend to think of our ears only for hearing, but vertebrates, including humans, depend on the inner ear for balance. Vertigo, with symptoms like dizziness, results from a problem with the inner ear — a common problem among the elderly.

Hero was treated by PMMSN members — Dr. Leo Jonathan Suarez and a team of veterinarians connected with Ocean Adventure in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone — and seemed to be recovering well. But on Nov. 8, they noticed that he was not eating and appeared to be in pain. He seemed to be retching, trying to vomit something from his gut.

Hero’s condition improved for a few days around the third week of November, but then he stopped eating again. A few days later, the vets saw him trembling, swimming erratically, and retching for about five hours, before dying. The Dolphin died on Nov. 30, Bonifacio Day.

The vets performed an autopsy and found a piece of plastic in Hero’s throat. Down the esophagus, they found nylon and more plastic, all of which had ended up into a ball that obstructed the digestive tract. Hero had choked to death on human garbage.

It was not the first time the PMMSN found such garbage in stranded marine mammals. It’s hard to estimate how many of the mammals also ingest the garbage out at sea, and how many survive, or die. Other marine mammals strand because they get entangled in fishing nets and gear. Still others strand because they are ill, sometimes because of infections, other times because of chemical toxins from humans.

I listened to the report on Hero during a PMMSN conference held earlier this month in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. I attended mainly because the PMMSN is based in UP Diliman’s Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology, and I was asked to deliver a keynote speech and a paper as well. I decided to stay on because I was curious about PMMSN activities.

It was an eye-opener. Stranded marine mammals are an example of why we need to have more One Health efforts, linking human medicine, veterinary medicine, and, the most neglected, environmental health concerns.

Paper after paper delivered at the conference showed how our neglect of the environment affects human and nonhuman animals. On my first day in Vigan, Dr. Lem told me that he and his team were treating a stranded Whale in Pangasinan for a respiratory infection, and were using ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic. I asked how they chose their antibiotics, and he said it’s actually been a problem with some of the mammals because they’re showing resistance to some of the drugs.

I was surprised. Antibiotic resistance is a serious problem now with humans because of misuse (over-prescription, self-medication). How could this happen with marine mammals?

Dr. Lem reminded me that the ocean is one large sink for human garbage and a host of chemicals from antibiotics to pesticides, and so it is not surprising that marine mammals are put in harm’s way as well. A paper read in the conference by chemist J. L. Bondoc talked about the human “cocktail of chemicals” that gets into the sea and affects marine mammals. She showed slides of the animals’ damaged livers, which were correlated with high levels of toxic chemicals.

Vet med

My first degree was in veterinary medicine. I was trained to treat dogs and cats, cows, pigs and horses, even carabaos — all mammals — plus a few birds, mainly chickens. When I got to Vigan, the first person I was introduced to was Dr. Nestor Domenden, the director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in the Ilocos. The bureau was coordinating much of the work with the PMMSN, and had taken care of organizing logistics for the conference. It made sense that the BFAR was taking care of Dolphins and Whales.

I then met veterinarians, and more veterinarians, and then it hit me. Back in vet school — still in UP Diliman at that time — we had an informal boundary: Our college took care of mammals and our next door neighbor, the College of Fisheries, took care of, well, fish. In Vigan, I realized that vets are taking on an expanded list of potential patients — still mammals, but those found in the sea.

I’m signing up with the PMMSN and hoping to join one of its future training workshops, in part to show that senior citizens can still pick up new causes and skills. But really, this is just a continuation of my older advocacies. I’ve worked on environmental causes for many years, and in public health, so this isn’t something completely new. The vet skills will need some honing; I just had to ask them where one extracts blood from a Dolphin (answer: a vein on the caudal or tail fin).

It’s my anthropology side that is most stimulated by the PMMSN activities. I delivered a paper in Vigan talking about how humans’ ability to care for other species — even willing to risk life and limb for them — is what adds to our definitions of humanity. Caring for dogs and cats is one thing; taking another step to care about Dolphins and Whales is a bit more difficult. But it’s happening.

In scientific conferences we usually find ourselves emotionally detached, dealing mainly with graphs and statistics. But the PMMSN conference was different: The papers tugged at our hearts’ strings, for example, when slides of butchered marine mammals were presented.

It was also encouraging to hear about how government patrols in the Ilocos had decreased dynamite fishing, which seems to have led as well to a decrease in the stranding of marine mammals. I was also touched to see a marine ambulance they had built, which the PMMSN hopes to replicate for the other regions. There are volunteers now all the way to Tawi-tawi.

I intend to write more about the PMMSN in the future. Interested in helping out? Do visit

Meanwhile, think hard about our garbage and how it might kill Dolphins like Hero. It’s not just plastic bags and wrappers. The weekend after Vigan, one of my daughters wanted to buy balloons and I had to gently tell her what one of the vets had told me: The balloons don’t end up in heaven; some come back to the earth, others into the sea. I bought her a balloon anyway, and our day ended with the balloon safely inside the house.

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

  • Farmers remove thousands of dead fish from floating cages in the Lake Toba town of Haranggaol in May 2016. The fish died overnight from a lack of oxygen in the water.
  • The lake’s fishing industry lost more than 1,500 tons of Carp (Cyprinus carpio) and Tilapia (Oreochromis sp.) in the fish kill.
  • The mass fish kill took days to clean up. More than 100 Lake Toba fish farmers lost their entire stock, costing them thousands of dollars.

Photos: Binsar Bakkara

Photo Essay: How Pollution Is Devastating an Indonesian Lake
Uncontrolled fish farming, population growth, and logging have all taken a toll on Indonesia’s Lake Toba. Photographer Binsar Bakkara returns to his home region to chronicle the environmental destruction.
By Binsar Bakkara, 26th October 2016;

More than 1,500 tons of fish suddenly turned up dead in Indonesia’s largest lake earlier this year, a mass asphyxiation from a lack of oxygen in the water caused by high pollution levels. The event threatened the livelihoods of hundreds of fish farmers and the drinking water for thousands of people, and it shed light on the rapidly declining conditions in Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world.

Population growth, development, deforestation, and a booming caged fishing industry have severely degraded the lake’s water quality over the last two decades, scientists say. There are now 12,000 cages in the lake, each containing upwards of 10,000 fish, which is double or triple their capacities. Agricultural fertilizers, sewage, and most prominently, fish food have increased the levels of phosphorous in the lake three-fold since 2012, according to a government report. The lake, located in the northern part of Sumatra, is classified as either eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic, meaning it has excessive nutrients that can create dead zones with low oxygen levels.

Photographer Binsar Bakkara grew up on the shores of Lake Toba. While a kid in the 1980s and 1990s, “the clarity level of the water in the lake was very good,” Bakkara says. “Objects at 5-7 meters in depth could be seen clearly. But nowadays, it’s almost impossible to see any objects 2 meters deep because of the murky water.” When he heard news of the fish kill, Bakkara headed back to the lake to document the pollution.

Source: Yale Environment 360

Photos: Dr. Jenwit Wanich

Our friends in Thailand are currently rehabilitating a young male Striped Dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) in Sri Bo Ya island, Krabi, Thailand. A young female died before the vets arrived at the stranding site. Their team is lead by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.

Source: Friends of PMMSN – Philippine Marine Mammal Stranding Network