As I threw myself on top of the head of an 11ft American Croc with all my power and weight, I had another reminder of just how powerful these animals are as it just flicked me back up on the air with just his head. Luckily his mouth was roped shut because that could have ended badly for me. As reality struck me of what was happening, with all my strength and Vince controlling and using his strength at the end of the rope, we pushed his head back down. Behind me were two of my undergraduates and an ACES intern. So far these girls have dealt with smaller and less crazy crocs, so it was about time they saw the damage and power a large croc can do so they can understand the respect these animals deserve. I’m pretty sure with this experience, they did!
We had all been around Ladyville the last couple of days after Ambergris trying to catch some “city” crocs for the project, while at the same time removing some problematic crocs. Unfortunately, we were getting skunked every morning and night as these crocs did not want anything to do with us, and it is likely because the locals have completely terrorized them. There is a lack of respect for wildlife here in Belize- there is a story of a croc changed up to a tree and a man had a sign that pretty much stated for $5 you could get a sledge hammer and pound the croc a couple of times. This not only happens to crocs but other animals here- monkeys, dogs, cats, etc., and not to mention that poaching is extremely bad. It’s sad, and it VERY MUCH angers me the amount of animal abuse that goes on, but wildlife organizations have done a lot to make things better. It is getting better, but I just wish the level of respect for all animals would speed up!
So our last 24 hours here in Ladyville consisted of collecting data on 5 “city” crocs recently captured by ACES. We started with the smallest, which was collected from a Jehovah Witness Church early that morning (5ft Morelet), and ended with the 11 footer American Croc that was captured at the local shrimp farm. After several hours of data collecting and being covered in mud and croc vomit, our croc research excursion had come to a close- and we definitely ended it with a bang trying to control an 11 footer! We still set out that night to the Belize Defense Force base camp and another lagoon to try to capture some problematic crocs, but just got skunked again!
Now as I head to San Ignacio to meet a parasite collaborator of mine, all I can think about is being flung back like a feather by that huge croc, and also the monster croc I saw today. Prior to leaving San Ignacio, we checked one more trap in a lagoon, in which we knew a huge croc was living there. Its hind feet were bigger than my hands!!!! We checked the trap- it was set off, but something just broke the rope like it was floss. We all knew it was one big and powerful croc that was in this lagoon… and then we saw it. Out in the water and what looked like a big rock was a huge head, as big as my torso. What was even more startling is this creature was not the salt water croc here in Belize, the American Crocodile, which can get big. This was a Morelet’s crocodile. I have seen a 10ft Morelet’s in Guatemala in captivity, but never something this big in the wild. Vince and I couldn’t believe it! All I know is that when that animal gets captured and moved to a safe place, it is going to take an army to hold him down!