In January 2016, the journal Cretaceous Research announced the discovery in the Tunisian desert of 120-million-year-old fossils of a new species called Machimosaurus rex – a prehistoric crocodile measuring over 30 feet (almost 10 meters) in length, making it the largest crocodile to ever roam the Earth on stubby legs carrying a three ton body with a mouth that could have easily swallowed humans. In March 2018, reports popped up of a hunt in the Agusan del Sur province of the Philippines for a 30-foot-long crocodile that is being blamed for attacks on local fishermen and the possible disappearance of a local woman. Is that enough evidence to declare that Machimosaurus rex is still alive and kicking … and eating humans?
If the name “Agusan del Sur” linked to the phrase “world’s largest crocodile” sounds familiar, you’re obviously up on Crocodylinae lore. Saltwater crocodiles are documented reaching over 7 m (23 ft) and weighing 1,000 kg (2,200 lb), but the title of longest croc ever captured alive belongs to Lolong, which was netted in 2011 in … you guessed it … Agusan del Sur province.
Lolong measured 6.17 m (20.2 ft) and weighed 1,075 kg (2,370 lb) and was named after the late crocodile hunter Ernesto “Lolong” Conate, who was leading the hunt for a rumored monster crocodile near Lake Mihaba when he died of a stroke – just days before a real monster croc was hauled in alive. That hunt began after a local fisherman and a 12-year-old girl disappeared and were presumed to have been killed by the croc – just the latest in a string of alleged man-eating croc attacks in the area stretching over 20 years. Lolong was kept in the Bunawan Ecopark and Wildlife Reservation Center in nearby Barangay Consuelo and was a popular tourist attraction until it died of pneumonia and cardiac arrest on February 10, 2013. Lolong’s remains are now at National Museum of Natural History in Manila.
Meanwhile, rumors of an even bigger monster crocodile began almost immediately after the capture of Lolong and persist in Agusan del Sur and around the Agusan River to this day, despite the fact that no others have been caught anywhere near its size. Are they real, folklore or the fantasy of a desperately poor area in need of tourist dollars? Does the myth of a prehistoric-sized beast bring in the hunters or do hunters propagate the myth? Or is it a little of both?
Most likely, it’s the latter. The source of the latest story appears to be a video uploaded by Discovery UK, which interviews villagers — including one who sizes the croc at 30 feet, goes out on the water, photographs crocs … but doesn’t find Lolong 2.0 or even Lolong 1.1 or a smaller yet still scary legacy Lolong. There don’t appear to be any stories by the Philippine and coverage of the 2011 hunt for Lolong show it was much bigger and more organized. This one almost seems to be a promo for an upcoming documentary on Philippine crocodiles, of which there are plenty and of all shapes and sizes.
For now, Lolong’s record as the longest captured-alive crocodile is safe, as is the that of Machimosaurus rex as the biggest prehistoric crocodile. However, hunt for a Lolong 2.0 will continue as long as there are cable and Internet networks, tourism agencies and missing persons in villages along croc-infested rivers