American Crocodile Education Sanctuary

PO Box 9, San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize, Central America

+501-623-7920  |  +501-637-8769

©2019 American Crocodile Education Sanctuary. All rights reserved. Website created by

ACES is a Non-Profit Organization founded by Wildlife Behaviorist & Croc Wrangler, Vince Rose, & Research Biologist, Cherie Chenot-Rose ~ Belize


  • chrissummers06

Rest In Peace Elda The Warrior

On August 20th, two members of American Crocodile Education Sanctuary’s (ACES) team witnessed a man feed a wild American crocodile frozen chicken in a sealed plastic bag. The croc disappeared beneath the surface with the indigestible “treat” before anyone could stop it.

As the team watched in sorrow, the man tried to calm them, claiming the bag was 'biodegradable' and 'not harmful to the animal.' What this man does not know is that biodegradable items must have an ideal environment to begin the degradation process, one that includes UV light and oxygen, both of which are not found in a crocodile’s stomach. Even if these conditions are met, the process can take up to six months before breakdown occurs. Never-the-less, one should never feed a wild animal - especially not something encased in any sort of bag.

Alarmed by the information that this “treat” has been given to this croc on a regular basis, our team and volunteers set out over the course of the next week in the mornings and evenings in an attempt to capture the croc and flush her stomach to expel the accumulated trash before any blockages became life-threatening.

Unfortunately, due to the irresponsible actions of another individual nearby, who has also been feeding the crocs and habituating them to people, our task was easier said than done. During one evening’s investigation, we had six adult crocodiles coming to us seeking out food before we identified a croc who was in serious trouble with her health. Even in the dark of night, with flashlights barely piercing the murky water, we were able to see for the briefest of moments how dangerously underweight this animal was, and she became our sole target for the evening.

Over the next 4.5 hours, we tried everything we could to capture her, whilst at the same time making sure we didn’t catch or become caught ourselves by any of the other crocs who were increasingly interested in our presence and bait. After several near misses and hours of frustration, shortly before 1AM the team finally got a rope around our target crocodile and brought her onto the shore. What we saw stopped us all in our tracks. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a croc looking that bad, but for the two remaining members of the team it was their first time, and it brought tears to their eyes. To say she was underweight is a drastic understatement. This helpless animal was skin and bones. At nine feet long, she could not have weighed more than 100lbs, approximately half of what her weight should be, and she displayed external body conditions, indicating very poor health.

As well as her obviously dangerous weight, poor Elda, as she’s now become known, had peeling skin all over her body; not just a little, she had a lot of skin coming off. Since crocs don’t shed their skin like other reptiles, this is usually an indication that the animal has spent a considerable amount of time in polluted and toxic waters. She had vision in only one eye, and the pupil in that eye had little constriction in response to light. This is a bad sign, as every time we’ve observed this lack of pupil response, the croc has died within three days.

Her body also had bite marks all over it, some old, some new, and was missing her front foot. That being said, we weren’t surprised to find wounds such as this, as fighting is to be expected when you have large amounts of wild predators in one area who aren’t naturally a very social species. We typically only see this species hanging out in high concentration due to their behavior being altered by people feeding them. Unless you witness them fighting, they seem to be living harmoniously, but captures of such animals and inspections of their bodies, show this to not be the case - as was demonstrated by Elda’s body condition. Though Elda’s health looked to be in an extraordinarily fragile and declining state, her ability to somewhat fight the capture and interest in food gave us hope that she may be able to pull through if she immediately received the proper care.

So began her journey. It was clear that Elda was in need of medical attention and daily monitoring if she was to have any chance of surviving. With there being no vet on the island, and all of ACES rehab ponds at capacity, we began immediately making arrangements to get her to a vet on the mainland, and then on to Crocodile Research Coalition’s (CRC) facility for post-veterinary monitoring. The following morning Elda was loaded onto a boat and headed for the mainland. The first stop was the Animal Medical Centre, where she was x-rayed, and the worst of her wounds thoroughly cleaned. She was then taken to the Belize Zoo to spend the night in a holding area where she could be free of ropes and could de-stress, as her holding pen at CRC was not ready till the following day. The following morning, members of the CRC team arrived to take her to a rehabilitation habitat, where she could be monitored on a daily basis and allowed to recover in a low-stress environment.

Sadly, despite the incredible team effort of all people and organizations who came together to save this animal’s life, 20 hours after being placed into a rehabilitation enclosure, Elda succumbed to her ill health and passed away. A necropsy performed by CRC shortly after showed she had a myriad of health issues, including infection in multiple organs, but the most shocking: three plastic grocery bags and a piece of metal inside her stomach. Elda’s cause of death was determined to be infection, exacerbated by external stressors in the environment (i.e., pollution). The ingested plastic bags and a deep cranial injury are also believed to have worsened this crocodile’s declining health. Working in crocodile conservation, I’ve unfortunately seen a lot of dead crocs throughout my career. I’ve seen crocs who have been shot, stabbed, beaten, stoned, and tortured. I’ve seen crocs who were beheaded for trophies, crocs who were killed purely for their teeth to make trinkets to sell to tourists, crocs who have had their entire tails macheted off while alive, and I’ve seen crocs who have had their mouths tied shut prior to release so they can endure a slow and agonizing death through starvation over many months. Some of these deaths really get to you. Sometimes you can just shrug them off and carry on. This one has gotten to me. This animal did not suddenly fall ill and die. This is the result of years of accumulating ill health from living in a sick environment. Now there maybe some of you reading this that scoff at my description or at the sadness we feel. You may think to yourself that she was just a croc, but she was not JUST a croc. She was an innocent, living, breathing, native Belizean animal, and despite the labels given to crocs, despite the fear, hatred, and myth surrounding these creatures, there is no evil in them, there is no malice. They do not attack indiscriminately, kill for pleasure, or hunt for sport. They are just another of God’s creatures trying to live amongst us, and this creature suffered and died because of the toxic environment in an ecosystem in which she should have thrived. She died because of the selfish actions, and disrespect mankind has shown the environment. And what saddens me more than the death of an individual wild animal, is what this death represents. As an indicator species, crocodiles provide us an insight into the health of the environment. There is a direct correlation between the health, growth, and survivability of the overall population of crocodilians and the health of the ecosystem. If species such as crocodiles with their incredible immune systems are showing ill health or are dying because of the environment, they’re in, that is a very worrying sign that our ecosystem is unhealthy. Here in Belize, our awe-inspiring ecosystem draws visitors from all over the world and this, in turn, provides jobs to a large portion of the country’s citizens. Despite this, though, we see trash being tossed on the side of the road, boatloads of garbage being dumped in the lagoon waters, and trash being used to fill land situated at sea level, resulting in toxic runoff into the waterways. We are destroying the very thing that gives us our livelihood. So what are we going to do? Are we just going to wait? That didn’t work out so well for Orange Walk and the New River. The community there has known for years that there were problems in the waterways, but it seemed small enough it could be lived with, so that’s what most did, they lived with it, as we are now. Those that did make some noise weren’t listened to, and when the rains came and diluted the problem, it was largely forgotten until the next dry season. Now, with months of drought, the scale of the pollution is displayed in full and cannot be ignored. Crocodiles are being found dead, fish are dying off by the thousands, a thick residue coats the water’s surface, and restaurants, hotels, and even schools have sat empty as the stench from the river became unbearable. Is that what we’re waiting for here on Ambergris Caye? For the ecosystems here to be so unbelievably damaged that the pollution can no longer be buried under neighborhoods or hidden in the ever decreasing amount of mangrove? If that happens, it’s already too late. If we get to a level that parallels the New River, what are the effects we will see on our precious reef, which is situated so close to our coastline. Are we potentially sending our reef a death sentence? Every single person on this island either directly or indirectly relies on the reef and the tourism it brings. It doesn’t matter if you’re a gas station attendant, chef, tour guide, real estate agent, or fisherman. We ALL rely on the benefits of a healthy reef. In the worst-case scenario, if the reef dies, and the waters surrounding Ambergris Caye are putrid and foul, we lose our lifeline. Ambergris Caye has no other economy, and she won’t be able to return to a sleepy fishing village; with no mangrove, no reef, and toxic waters, there will be hardly any fish left, and what does survive may be riddled with toxins. All that will remain from paradise is crime, poverty, and regret that we didn’t act before it was too late. So, may we all learn something from the innocent American crocodile who lost her life. Elda, whose name means Warrior, fought a battle against pollution. As human beings and the most intelligent species, we have the power through our daily actions to protect the environment on Ambergris Caye and preserve her for our future generations. Take pride in this jewel, take care of all of her inhabitants, and change it for the better. We plead, if not for the safety of the community, our children, our pets, and our visitors, if you care for the wellbeing of our beloved wildlife, please stop feeding wild animals and report those that do. ACES would like to thank all those who came together for Elda’s rescue: ACES Intern Joshua Callan, Volunteers Ben and Rae Sept, Thomas Ack, Karen Brodie, Fondation Brigitte Bardot, Las Terrazas Resort, Quality Poultry Products, Animal Medical Centre, The Belize Zoo, Crocodile Research Coalition, and Belize Forest Department. Please share Elda’s story to raise awareness of the environmental issues that plague our island. Though you may not be the reason these issues are occurring, it is the responsibility of us all to take action.



Your tax deductible donation helps to fund our country-wide crocodile rescue program and supplies food, vitamins, medical care, and maintenance of natural habitats for crocs undergoing rehabilitation, as well as for injured and problematic crocodiles living in the sanctuary.



Click on a title below to read the complete article about ACES conservation efforts.


"Fondation Brigitte Bardot Donates Vehicle for Conservation" - The San Pedro Sun

"Slaughtered Jaguars Prompt GOB to act, Crocodile Mutilations on Island Go Ignored" - The San Pedro Sun

"School Children Learn about Crocodiles with ACES" - The San Pedro Sun

"ACES Relocated Large Problematic Crocodile to Mainland Sanctuary" - The San Pedro Sun

"Freshwater Crocodile found on Ambergris Caye" - The San Pedro Sun

"How Did Freshwater Crocodile End Up in San Pedro? - Ambergris Today

"ACES - Protecting the Threatened American Crocodile through Education" - My Beautiful Belize

C is for Crocodile….it’s good enough for Me! A fun and educational tour with ACES - First World Refugee

"Carnival, Filling my Burrito Bunker & The Family Visit! My Life On Ambergris Caye" - San Pedro Scoop

ACES - American Crocodile Education Sanctuary - She Trips Alone

Lagoon Clean-Up Mobilizes San Pedro Residents... Everyone Can Help - San Pedro Scoop

"San Pedro Lagoon Clean Up" - My Beautiful Belize
"Over 5000 lbs of Trash Removed from Lagoon Clean-Up" - The San Pedro Sun

"Family fun at Carnival Fundraiser for Raise Me Up and ACES" - The San Pedro Sun

"Islanders Celebrate World Earth Day 2018" - The San Pedro Sun

"Reef Fair 2018 Promotes Education and Conservation of the Reef and Marine Ecosystem" - The San Pedro Sun

"2nd Annual Raise Me Up Masquerade Party a success!" - The San Pedro Sun

"US student volunteers help clean up Ambergris Caye" - The San Pedro Sun

"ACES educates 2018 Camp Starfish attendees" - The San Pedro Sun

"“We are more alike than different” – Camp Starfish is back!" - The San Pedro Sun

"Christina Was Worried She Would Attract Too Much Attention Passing Through Town" - Ambergris Today

"Crocodile Rescue and Release in Ambergris Caye with ACES - LeAw in Belize" - Leave Everything And Wander

"Learning more about crocodile with ACES - Night Tour and Sanctuary in Belize - LeAw in Belize"  - Leave Everything And Wander

"ACES rescues Crocodile Thomas on Ambergris Caye" - The San Pedro Sun

"ACES Rescue Thomas the Croc" - Channel 5 News

"Letter to the Editor: This has to be a community effort" - The San Pedro Sun

‘Belize Navidad!’- Ramon’s Village wins 2018 San Pedro Holiday Boat Parade - The San Pedro Sun

"More Christmas Lights Than Ever At Holiday Boat Parade" - Ambergris Today
"It’s CHRISTMAS 2018! Our Beautiful San Pedro Lighted Boat Parade" - San Pedro Scoop

"Thousands of pounds garbage removed during SP BTIA clean-up in San Pedro Town" - The San Pedro Sun

2010 & 2011

ACES Receives Donation from ERAS 

ACES Earns Verification from GFAS 

ACES Earns verification from Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries 

Problematic Croc Preys on Pets 

Crocs have a New Home 

Crocodile Sanctuary on Mission to Save 30 Crocs 

Conservation Organization in Uproar over Crocodile Capture 

Crocodile Dundees Get a Grant to Save Crocs 

The Summerlee Foundation Donates to ACES Forum "The Summerlee Foundation Donates to ACES" 

Wranglers for Conservation - Saving Crocodiles in Belize

Caribbean Shrimp Farm & ACES Join in Conservation 

Crocodiles and Shrimp 

ACES Breaks Ground for New Croc Refuge on AC 

Croc Takes a Swim at Las Terrazas Pool 

David Tuts Recovering from Saturday's Croc Attack

Man Beats Back Man-Eating Croc 

Man Recovering From Croc Attack 

Croc Attack Update

Wild 13-foot Croc Attacks David Tuts During Late Night Swim

Croc Attack Reported in San Pedro 

Croc Chronicles - The Rescue of "Jaws," and Crocs George & Xanadu Home at Last 

Crocodile Refuge Proposal in Ambergris Caye

Snorkel Team During the Day, Crocodile Researchers at Night 

"My Bohemian Life" Experiences ACES

Legend's Burger House Raises $4000BZD for ACES's Crocodile Conservation 

ACES at Isla Bonita 

Legend's Burger House Hosts Fundraiser for American Crocodiles 

The World Wildlife Fund Films ACES 

The Island Academy Hosts ACES and a Croc 

Crocodile Gets Library Card 

Croc Chronicles #4 

ACES Soars with LightHawk 

CrocLog Podcast - Episode 4

Croc Chronicles #3 - French Film Crew Captures ACES

ACES Croc Chronicles #2 

First Ever Crocodile Rescue on Caye Caulker 

Photographer Documents ACES

Professional Wildlife Photographer Shoots with ACES

Crocodile Confiscated 

ACES Crocodile Chronicles 

Moving a Problem Croc in San Pedro on a Wet Night 

ACES Choco-Croc Pops by Cotton Tree Chocolate

Reward Offered for Missing Children

Belize Forest Department Press Release Supports ACES

ACES Hosts First Ever Fund Raising Event in Punta Gorda 

Editorial - Condoning Illegal Croc Feeding Sends the Wrong Message 

Two Problematic Crocs Removed From WASA Lagoon

Problem Croc Removed From Local Lake 

Ripley the Morelet's Crocodile Euthanized - Ambergris Daily 

Ripley the Morelet's Crocodile Euthanized - San Pedro Sun 

Belize Wildlife Officer Comments on  Rescued Corozal Croc 

Ripley's Last Chance 

Animal SOS - Rouge Male, Bad Boy George, Crocodile Seeks New Home 

Tortured and Left for Dead - ACES Rescues Corozal Croc

ACES assists Dr. Rainwater with Hickatee Turtle Survey for the Turtle Survival Alliance 

Illegal Feeding, Garbage & Development Make for Problem Crocs 

Problem Croc Removed from San Pedro 

ACES to the Rescue