When Crocs Don't Fear Humans
The mere word crocodile gives some people the chills, and the Ancient Maya associate the creature with the “Underworld.” The truth is, these ancient creatures that have survived for over 200 million years, through the ice age and the rise and fall of dinosaurs, are now in threat of becoming extinct due to mankind.
Currently, the number of croc-human conflicts Worldwide is on the rise. This is not because of an increase in the number of crocodiles, but because man is encroaching on the crocodiles’ habitats (homes) and illegally killing them for various reasons.
American crocodiles, found in North, South and Central America, are typically shy, reclusive and hardly ever seen by people. Except here in Ambergris Caye. Within the past week ACES/ American Crocodile Education Sanctuary has responded to two problematic crocodiles at Reef Village, two in South Ambergris Caye, and two cases in San Pablo where croc(s) attacked pets, one of which was unfortunately fatal. Not to mention, just this past August a full grown man narrowly escaped with his life when he was attacked by a large crocodile in the San Juan area.
Why is this normally elusive animal showing no fear of humans and attacking on Isla Bonita?
People are still directly feeding crocs in some areas on the island. All over the island, people are still indirectly feeding crocs by tossing fish and chicken scrapes into nearby waters. This attracts the croc’s natural prey, fish and raccoons.
People are indiscriminately, and often illegally, clearing and filling mangrove thus destroying and fragmenting crocodiles’ homes. This also brings crocs into a closer proximity to people.
People are still killing crocs out of fear or to sell croc parts illegally. The methods utilized contribute to crocodiles associating humans with food.
People are still catching crocs (particularly small ones) and trying to sell them illegally. “Pet crocs” re-released into the wild become the most dangerous apex predators.
ACES research on the population of Belize’s crocodiles in Ambergris Caye is showing that the actual number of crocs is much lower than people think, and severely lower than what should be here to keep the complex web of life on Isla Bonita in balance. Being both predator and prey in the food chain, crocodiles play a most important role in keeping the island’s ecosystems and fisheries healthy. Through tagging, ACES is finding that some of the same crocs are roaming large areas of the island. So, people are just seeing the same crocs over and over and at different locations. Because Belize is considered the last stronghold for this species, this is very bad news for the survival of American crocodiles. If we kill off the crocodiles, we will kill off the fisheries.
What can you do to keep your loved ones safe and live safely with crocodiles?
Never feed crocodiles – it is illegal and very dangerous.
Never swim in a lagoon at sunrise or sunset. These are the times of day when crocodiles feed.
When fishing be sure to stand back several feet from the shore.
Never clean fish or discard fish scraps near the water’s edge or at boat ramps/docks. Take your scraps back out to sea or dispose of properly.
Stay away from crocodile slide marks. Crocs may still be close-by.
Do not dangle your arms or legs over the side of a boat, including kayaks.
Never poke or harass a crocodile, even small ones or babies. The mother crocodile may be nearby.
Be more aware of crocodiles at night. They are predators and do hunt on land as well as in water.
Report all human-croc illegal activities to ACES at 631-6366, the Belize Forest Department, or your local police department.
What is ACES doing to help you safely live with crocodiles?
Voluntarily responding to all croc-human conflict calls Free of charge.
Capturing, tagging and relocating problematic crocodiles. Please know that this is only a temporary fix. Most problem crocs will return or become someone else’s problem. Until funding comes through for a croc sanctuary here on the island to safely hold problematic crocs, relocating them is keeping people and pets in immediate danger safe. American crocodiles are protected Internationally, and killing an endangered species that becomes problematic because of man is deplorable.
Working on a proposal for a crocodile conservation program for the island to protect some crocodile nesting habitats and to safely contain large problematic crocodiles. Additionally, a portion of each years’ hatchlings (baby crocs) would be collected and reared in captivity to a healthy size, and then be released to ensure a proper balance of predators vs. prey in the island’s wetland ecosystem in order to maintain a healthy fisheries.
Educating the public and children on crocodiles, their key role in the environment, and proper conservation methods. Do not be mislead when watching TV shows on alligators, such as the “Swamp People.” Even alligators are protected and it is illegal to hunt them without the proper permits. Their numbers are much greater than American crocodiles. With less than 10,000 left World-wide, Belize’s American crocodiles are as rare and as important as cuddly Polar Bears.
Thank you for your support! Only by working together can we save wildlife for future generations.