There exists a global controversy about the roles and relationships naturalists should have with the subjects they study. Thus, my story about Mama Croc:
While submerged up to my neck in river water building a dock, I noticed six little lizards twenty feet away along the bank. Staring at these little lizards I noticed these were indeed crocodiles. My first thoughts at that moment were, 'where's Mama and am I gonna get killed?'
Mama was a wild Croc living in the river system that fed our property. She was here before us with no known contact with humans. She nested along our shores, had her babies in the protection of the river channel, and was always watching. Over 6 years, a number of stunning events transpired between Mama and myself.
For the first year she wanted nothing to do with Cherie and myself in any way. As I studied Mama, it became apparent she too was studying me. Although very shy and reserved at first, she slowly began to expose her behaviors to me. She finally one day accepted us as part of her domain.
After more than a year of the two of us studying each other, I decided to take the next step. I slapped the water with my arm in somewhat of an aggressive manner and Mama raced to me at the waters edge where I stood my ground. After realizing I meant no harm, she lazily swam back to her young.
Then, one day while watching her basking in the mangrove, I noticed her shaking her head against the branches to ward of doctor flies. I approached her gingerly with a stick in hand and began to slowly caress her head, clearing the flies from her eyes. She appeared to enjoy the contact. She allowed me to continue with this type of contact, eventually allowing me to pet her by hand.
The years went by and our trust and respect for each other grew. I was always learning from her behavior and she seemed to be learning from my behavior as well. Though we had a very special relationship, I can assure you that I respected the fact that in a second, she could change. I knew her well enough by her behavioral signs, when she wants my attention and I am safe, or when to give her space.