Photo for illustrative purposes only Image Credit: Supplied photo

Manila: Authorities in Palawan’s Balabac reminded residents to avoid swimming at night after a 15-year-old boy was killed by a saltwater crocodile on Sunday evening.

“If possible, AVOID swimming, washing your clothes, or fishing in known crocodilian habitats especially at night because they are nocturnal animals they are most active at night,” the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre (PWRCC) said in a social media post.

On Sunday, Romilo Sappayani Miranda, a Grade 8 student of Indalawan National High School, was spear hunting for octopus with his uncle Pablo Sarmiento and two cousins in the coastal waters of Balabac when the boy was attacked by a crocodile at around 10pm.

The Palawan News quoted Police Staff Sergeant Mark Anthony Colili of the Balabac Municipal Police as saying that Miranda was last seen by his companions being dragged by the neck by a crocodile to deeper waters.

Miranda’s upper torso was found on Monday morning. His head, left arm and lower torso were missing.

This is not the first time that crocodiles have attacked humans in Balabac, a coastal municipality located close to the border with Malaysia’s Sabah State in Western Philippines.

In November 2018, a saltwater crocodile killed a fisherman identified as 33-year-old Cornelio Bonete.

Bonete’s remains were found the following day close to the area where he was attacked.

Authorities later on captured a 4.75 meter-long saltwater crocodile but were unsure if it was the one responsible for the attack.

Aside from the attack on Miranda and Bonete, there have been other documented incidents of crocodiles attacking humans close to shore or in mangroves.

The PWRCC said that humans are not part of the regular crocodilian diet.

“Although there may be instances of attacks on humans, these are very rare and done without the crocodilian knowing that its intended victim is human being,” it said.

At the same time, it warned that this does not mean that crocodiles will not attack humans.

“CROCODILIANS CANNOT DISTINGUISH HUMANS FROM ANIMALS. Normally, crocodilians attack when they are hungry, for self-defence once provoked or threatened, to protect their nest and eggs or hatchlings (especially in the case of females), and to protect their territory,” the PWRRC said.