One bite, two out of control thrashes, a croc tooth hitting me in the face, and one charge. Needless to say it was a crazy first day working in Guatemala. I’m here at ARCAS, a rehabilitation center and sanctuary for exotic wildlife. There are monkeys, an otter, white tail deer, macaws, jaguars, and much, much more!!! My friend, and head vet of ARCAS (Alejandro) is helping me getting samples in Guatemala for my research. We first stomach flushed crocodilians that were relocated to ARCAS via confiscation or because of relocation.
We started the day with the caimans. These two caimans are believed to be hybrids between Caiman crocodilus fuscus and Caiman crocodilus crocodilus. And these two caiman were the FATTEST, MOST OBESE crocodilians I had ever seen!!!! The first caiman flush went pretty well, then came the second. As Alejandro was trying to noose the male that was in the pool, he slipped into the pool with the caiman and next thing I know this caiman is doing the death roll around Alejandro’s upper thigh! Luckily though, the caiman got the majority of his pants. He still had some puncture wounds in his leg, some bruising, but he just took a breath and continued with the research. A true croc researcher!!!
Next were the Morelet’s, and he warned us these gals were going to be trouble. The first gal we flushed put up a good fight. There was one point where I was putting a tube in her mouth and she clamped too hard, and next thing I know something hits me in the face-it was a tooth that snapped off!!! I got to release her (and putting my hands around this 6 footers snout was a reminder of how small my hands are!!!), and luckily it went smoothly.
So during the time we are flushing the 6 footers mouth, the bigger girl (a bit over 7 feet, but bulky and with an attitude) is growling behind us. She was not an easy catch- although she was tied, the first time we tried to jump on her she snapped back with brutal force. The second time we got her, and she put up a fight the whole time!!!!! I felt bad for this Morelet- she was bitchy for a reason. She was in a watering hole, and when she got caught in it and it was too deep to get out, people were throwing rocks at her, and she is now blind (or near-blind) in both eyes. I would be a major bitch too if people did that to me for no reason. Anyways, we flushed her. It took three of us with all of our power to pry open her jaws so she could let go of the tube. I was sweating from pulling so hard. When all was said and done, we released her and she turned right at us and charged for a bit, but then went back into her pool. This is one croc that does not care for humans!
So after a day of fun, I asked Alejandro if we could take out the little Morelet’s for my undergrad. So I went into the enclosure and this little 1 meter croc put up a fight (Little Man syndrome is what I like to call it). It was one fun catch, but Helen agreed- Morelet’s have one bad ass attitude!
So our night ended with catching a hatchling in one of the near-by lagoons and catching to escape Kinkajous who tried to poo and piss on our head. Ahh, memories of working with the chimps at the LA Zoo….