While doing croc research and volunteering for ACES (American Crocodile Education Sanctuary) in Belize, we were notified by the Belize Forest Wildlife Department of a problematic croc in a lagoon surrounded by houses who had lost its fear in humans. Crocs who don’t see humans as prey usually lose their fear of humans when humans feed them- such as feeding them chicken for one’s own entertainment or for a way of entertaining tourists. Well, this particular croc was being fed daily by people- thus the croc getting the confidence of getting closer to dogs and eating them as prey, as well as getting closer to people along the shore- such as kids!!!!! So, the ACES team and I headed to Ambergris Caye to the lagoon, and we set up a croc trap that was designed by Steve Irwin. One thing I took from Steve Irwin in using croc traps is that it is always about the third day that crocs use the trap. Crocs are highly intelligent animals, and very curious. I figure the first day they don’t want to go near the funky looking contraption even if there is chicken in it. Second day their curiosity gets to the best of them and they start really checking it out. By the third day the smell of rotten chicken entices them so much they just can’t take it anymore. They go into that trap and pull on that chicken and “boom!” They get entangled in the net trap!!!
We putt up the trap the first night. By morning someone had tampered with it. We fixed it. Later that day a dog got in it. We put it up again! The croc didn’t go into it that night or the next night. By the end of the third night, we were feeling exhausted from the emotion and publicity we were getting about this croc. For many locals, they fear crocs. They don’t understand why to protect them and why these crazy Americans care for saving them and catching this one. Spending three days saying the same thing over and over again is tiring, especially when you put in the same emotional effort. Things got really heated one moment when these kids who are known to illegally feed crocs came by and tried to start something up. Luckily the police was there and took care of the drunken youngsters. So its coming to the end of the night of day three-we just figured the trap wasn’t going to work. We were exhausted and decided to just collect everything the next day. We had a good dinner that night, drank, and partied at the bars for awhile. We figure we would just leave the island before noon the next day- that didn’t end up happening.
All I can remember of the next morning was Cherie left the apartment to go check out when the boat left back to the mainland , and Vince and I went to the croc capture sight where we saw a croc caught in the net! As I was lazy when I rolled out of bed and rushed to go to the capture sight, all I was wearing was my Pj’s and croc shoes! The word of a croc caught in a net spread like wildfire amongst the local community. The police came to create a barricade. Vince and I tried to organize everything, while asking people to go find Cherie. Vince and I waited awhile to see if Cherie would show up, but miscommunication led her to wondering what happened to us- she didn’t know we were at the croc site! Because ofthe noise and not knowing how long the croc struggled in that net, Vince and I decided
we needed to take care of that croc right away. With some help we carefully got the croc onto a safe area where Vince and I jumped on her. Cherie made it to the sight as we were trying to figure out transport of the croc to a boat back to the mainland. I believe within two hours the croc was caught and put on a truck to be taken back to ACES. When we caught “Debbie,” I started to do a health analysis on her. Overall she was healthy, but her skin was sensitive- possibly caused by pollutants in the water. Also, there were old bullethole puncture wounds in her. How awful people can be!!! “Let me show off how manly I am by shooting a defenseless animal that has no place to “run” by shooting it with my gun!” If you ask me, only people with a lack of respect for themselves and others and wildlife would only do that. That isn’t manly but cowardly!!!!
Debbie was taken to ACES where she was later reunited with another croc from the same locality. It was so cute when you could tell that there was some recognition between the two.
I hope to be back in Belize within the year to continue croc work and education with ACES. Maybe you can help get me there… extra proceeds will help fund travel expenses to Belize!!! http://rockethub.com/projects/3823-mysteries-of-a-prehistoric-affair