The crocodile I am recreating was named Lolong by the villagers that captured him, and was suspected in a number of water buffalo deaths and two human deaths around the small villages that lay in his territory in Agusan Marsh. When he was captured, he measured 20 feet, 3 inches, and weighed 2,370 pounds. This made him the longest saltwater crocodile in captivity. It was estimated that he was over 50 years old. Below is a photograph of Dr. Adam Britton measuring Lolong for the Guinness World Book of Records.
The villagers had prepared a large holding area with a pond for him, and put him on display. Several animal rights activist groups, including PETA, had strong objections to his being kept in captivity, arguing that his holding pen did not meet humane standards, and that he should be returned to his natural environment. He died approximately eighteen months after being captured. An expert biologist performed a necropsy, and determined that Lolong died of congestive heart failure and pneumonia, compounded by a weakened immune system brought on by chronic stress. The necropsy revealed a great deal of internal bruising and hemorrhage. The expert’s theory was that in the wild, Lolong never left the water and that the water safely supported his massive bulk. On display, his concrete-lined pond was drained daily, leaving him without the water he needed. This was ostensibly done to keep his pond clean, but the biologist felt that the water was drained so that Lolong could be viewed clearly by the many visitors who paid to see him. Over time, this practice damaged Lolong’s internal organs, and this stress contributed to his death.
This story affected me deeply, and caused me to ponder, as I often do, the relationship and rights of non-human persons and human persons when they overlap. Crocodiles are apex predators, and Lolong included large prey such as water buffaloes and humans in his diet. He was behaving according to his nature. The villagers used the waterways to obtain water, to fish, and to travel. They did not have the choice to avoid the waterway, and therefore keep themselves safe from interacting with Lolong. Their desire to capture him and to generate much-needed income for the village by putting him on display is understandable.
I am commemorating Lolong’s long life and his death by building a life-size replica of him. The crocodile is being built using an internal frame of wood, cardboard tubes, and hardware cloth, with a papier-mache surface. The crocodile will be painted white, and completely covered with small drawings appliqued to the surface. In the installation of this sculpture, Lolong will be completely surrounded by hundreds of small clay creatures, creatures I began making some months ago, called ‘four-leggers.’ These four leggers are of two varieties: one type has a small hole in the top of its head in which a stem of rosemary is placed. The second type has a deeper ‘cup’ for the top of its head, large enough to hold a votive candle. These small friendly creatures serve as vessels of remembrance and they are also guiding Lolong’s spirit to its next destination.