Friday, October 2, 2009

Rizal farm admits crocs escaped

But all were recaptured, says farm OIC

MANILA - Environment and local government officals conducted an investigation into the origins of a crocodile that was seen swimming in Cainta floodwaters after tropical Storm Ondoy hit Luzon last Saturday.

Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) personnel went to the Coral Agri Venture Crocodile Farm in Teresa municipality in Rizal province on Wednesday. Earlier reports indicated this was where the crocodile escaped from.

Brian Sibongga, officer-in-charge (OIC) at the farm, admitted that 5 crocodiles escaped from their holding pens at the height of the storm on the evening of September 25, but that the reptiles were immediately recaptured along the farm's perimeter fences.

"Maswerte po tayo at meron po tayong perimeter fence. So narecover po natin ang ating buwaya. Imposible po na nakapunta po sa area ng Cainta yung buwaya kasi kung makikita niyo po talagang walang access," Sibongga told ABS-CBN News.

(We are lucky that we have perimeter fences. So we recovered the crocodiles. It is impossible that a crocodile escaped to Cainta becase there is no access [out of the farm]).

The Coral Agri Venture farm harvests crocodile meat, an "exotic food," and crocodile skin for belts and handbags.

Though all 9,000 crocodiles at the 3-hectare farm were accounted for, CENRO officials warned farm administrators about lapses in their security.

"Bakit naglagay kayo ng perimeter fence...at papano sila nakalabas? (Why did you put a perimeter fence... and how did they escape?)" said CENRO officer Antonio Diwa.

Diwa said the farm should report incidents like escaping crocodiles and damaged holding pens to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Teresa Municipal Mayor Rodel de la Cruz assured alarmed residents within the area that no crocodiles went loose from the Coral Agri Venture Crocodile Farm. He said the area looked "properly secured."

Earlier, residents of Greenpark Subdivision in Cainta reported seeing a 5-foot crocodile, initially said to have escaped from the Pasig Rainforest Park.

Cainta Police Supt. Nereo Torrecampo said this was immediately recaptured. Police are unsure, however, whether a crocodile is still on the loose.

CENRO, meanwhile, is continuing investigations as to where the crocodile that was sighted in Cainta could have escaped from. Officials will reportedly inspect a neighboring crocodile hatchery in Teresa, Rizal. Report by Gus Abelgas, ABS-CBN News.

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