An entire town was in mourning today after Lolong, the world's largest crocodile in captivity -- and a huge money-spinner -- died in its man-made lake of a mystery illness.
The 21ft, one-tonne saltwater crocodile, which was captured less than 18 months ago by a team of brave men in the southern Philippines, was found lying upside down in its enclosure in an eco-tourism park.
Lolong, believed to be more than 50 years old, fell ill after swallowing a nylon cord about three weeks ago. He was left with nonstop diarrhoea, The Philippine Star reported.
Lolong, named after a famed Philippines hunter, had been blamed for the deaths of several fishermen before its dramatic capture in the marshes near the town of Bunawan (population 35,000), 515 miles south east of Manila.Thirty men had spent three weeks trying to capture the huge reptile before they finally snared it in September 2011 using a dead pig as bait and throwing steel cables over it.
A tractor was needed to haul it onto a trailer -- but not before local people had crowded around the crocodile to pose for photos with their world-record catch.
Since then, Lolong has been a star attraction at the tourism park and town councillors gleefully announced that their small town had finally found its place on the world map.
But today many of the townsfolk were in tears on learning that Lolong had died within a year and a half of being moved to its new home.
'We don't know what happened to it,' said the shocked Mayor, Edwin Elorde, who reportedly cradled the colossal creature in his arms before it died,. 'Its death is a complete mystery and I have to admit that I'm really depressed.
'I've come to love that crocodile. It brought fame and fortune to our town and, in a small way, to the Philippines.'
Mr Elorde said that after the crocodile's capture - which made international headlines -- a special eco-tourism park was created to house it.
Local people and foreign tourists made special trips to the remote community to gaze in awe at the enormous creature.
'We were planning to build a special road leading to the park because we were getting so many tourists, but now I'm not so sure whether we will proceed with it,' said the Mayor.
'Perhaps the plan will go ahead if we can catch more crocodiles -- there are many more out there - but I can't say whether they will have the same appeal as Lolong.
'You only had to see him and you'd stand there staring as if under a spell.'
When rangers at the park found Lolong floating on its back they called for immediate help from Mr Alex Collantes, a veterinarian who specialises in reptiles.
He found that Lolong was still alive but close to death and as a desperate measure he and park rangers immersed it in lukewarm water.
The region has been hit by unusually cold weather this month and Mr Collantes suggested this might have had something to do with the crocodile's dire condition.
Despite all efforts, however, Lolong was declared dead a few hours later.
As word spread through the town, many people gathered in the streets and wept.
Lolong namatay! Mundo Pinakamalaking Crocodile namatay sa Phillippines
Lolong πεθαίνει! Worlds Largest Κροκόδειλος πεθαίνει σε Φιλιππίνες
Lolong muore! Crocodile più grande Mondi muore in Filippine
Lolong는 죽어! 세계 최대의 악어는 필리핀에서 죽을
Lolong umiera! Worlds Largest Crocodile umiera w Filipinach
Lolong morre! Worlds Largest Crocodilo morre em Filipinas
Lolong moare! Lumi cel mai mare crocodil moare în Filipine
Lolong умирает! Крупнейший в мире крокодил умер в Филиппинах
Lolong muere! Cocodrilo grande del mundo fallece en Filipinas