Largest Crocodile in Captivity Dies as Locals Plan Festival Celebrating Reptile

The largest saltwater crocodile to be held in captivity was found dead in its pen in the Philippine town of Bunawan in the Agusan del Sur province.

The massive reptile was found floating on its back on Sunday and was declared dead a short while later when Edwin Cox Elorde, Bunawan's mayor, released a statement.

"The whole town, in fact the whole province, is mourning," Elorde said. "My phones kept ringing because people wanted to say how affected they are."

The crocodile was responsible for the deaths of several villagers before being captured. The reptile was given the name of Lolong after the government's ranking environmental official responsible for leading the charge to find a safe place for the animal to dwell.

Guinness World Records revealed that Lolong was the largest saltwater crocodile in captivity when it was captured in 2011. It measured just over 20 feet and tipped the scales at just under 1 ton. Reptile experts believed Lolong was more than 50 years old.

Authorities will try to determine what caused the death of the reptile, which had become a star attraction of the swampy town of about 500 miles southeast of Manila.

"I'm really depressed," Elorde told the Associated Press. "I've come to love that crocodile. It had brought fame to our town and the Philippines."

Officials from the town of Bunawan had built a special pen to house the reptile, which was beginning to draw large numbers of tourists who came to see the massive creature.

Locals are planning a ritual tribal festival for Lolong that includes offering thanks for the marvelous creature, but others have asked the animal be preserved so that visitors can still experience the wonder that was Lolong.

Elorde is leading a plan to have Lolong put on permanent display so that everyone can "see the crocodile that broke a world record and put our town on the map."