This past month the Crocodile Research Coalition (CRC) joined colleagues, zoos, and crocodile enthusiasts all over the world by celebrating CROCtober! Although we believe crocodiles should be celebrated every day, CROCtober is a special month to further our education and awareness efforts to the communities in Belize. Our CROCtober activities started with an hour Croc Talk presentation with St. John’s Memorial School in Placencia. We started off with the younger students, in which their enthusiasm for learning about crocodiles was overwhelming! During their talk, they got to learn about what crocodiles eat by sticking their hand in the “crocodile stomach,” and learning how big the Morelet’s and American crocs get by standing next to our life-size wooden crocodile! The following week the older students also got a good croc talk in which they learned our crocodiles in Belize are NOT man-eaters, in addition to learning about the critically endangered Hicatee Turtle as our friends over at BFREE are celebrating Hicatee Turtle Month (for more information, check out their documentary at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6SIwu1X6ZI).
We also presented at the Peninsula International Academy (PIA) in Placencia- it’s a warm feeling inside when you walk onto a school campus and the students yell “CRC” with huge smiles and full of excitement! Last year PIA was our first school in which we celebrated CROCtober, and these students were so excited to be celebrating CROCtober again. One thing we learned at the CRC- we now have about 80 Jr. Crocodile Specialists in Placencia as these students remembered everything we taught them from last year’s CROCtober. It’s great to know we have so many young enthusiastic crocodile advocates in the area!
Although we love educating the youth, it’s just as important to educate the “older” kids. During CROCtober we have launched our Lunch Croc Talks- visiting businesses and giving them a 30min educational talk to squash the false beliefs and provide the facts of Belize’s crocodiles. Well, our 30 min talks turned to a 90min discussion with the Placencia Humane Society (PHS) and a 60min croc talk at Turtle Inn. However, with these talks we have solidified partnership with PHS and Turtle Inn. PHS is now even helping us spread awareness of crocs and has expressed their interests in our research, accompanying us on a recent nocturnal eyeshine of the Placencia Lagoon. We only saw 3 crocs during our eyeshine, but it seemed like the crocs weren’t too thrilled with the wind that night. We also took our education leading a wildlife education and awareness work shop for tour guides in collaboration with Forest Department, The Belize Zoo, and Sea to Shore Alliance. The future looks bright for Belize’s wildlife as many tour guides have expressed their willingness to be wildlife champions and helping the national organizations in their mission to ensure Belize’s wildlife keep wild for future generations to come!
During this month as well we finally launched Next Gen Croc Placencia with LucasYoung from PIA. Interested in a career in wildlife research and conservation, Lucas will be joining the CRC in local nocturnal eyeshine surveys as well as biodiversity surveys. We are so excited to be working with Lucas, and helping him grow into a strong leader and advocate for Belize’s wildlife.
The biggest non-stop CROCtober day was Boo at the Zoo at The Belize Zoo. For 4 hours straight the CRC educated visitors of all ages about Belize’s American and Morelet’s crocs through games, arts and crafts, and croc feeding talks. We actually strolled up to Boo at the Zoo a bit late as we had to release a 3ft croc into the Sibun River. It was a bit muddier than we thought, so after almost getting our truck stuck and getting full of mud on our clothes, we rapidly got our booths ready for the ghouls, witches and monsters that came to the zoo!
So how did the CRC end CROCtober? the CRC and The Belize Zoo, headed to Belize City to talk and educate about crocs and predators to students at three different schools organized by Belize Animal Rescue. Students actively participated and learned about Belize’s magnificent apex predators and we definitely think we’ve got a few more croc advocates out there now. And to top it all off, CRC’s Program Coordinator Miriam Boucher had a croc photo and video highlighted in a PBS clip about the amadyla in crocs!
Amongst all the outreach activities (and let’s not forget the TV appearance on The Morning Show to promote Boo at the Zoo and CROCtober, as well as responding to over 5 croc calls across the country, and launching the 2nd year of Next Gen Croc with Ocean Academy on Caye Caulker), the CRC is confident to say there is a shift in the view of crocodiles. Through non-stop education, people are empowering themselves with the knowledge to co-exist, squashing their false beliefs of crocodiles and relying on the facts instead. Although CROCtober is ending, the work for CRC and wildlife conservationists never does. So, don’t forget to continue to follow our adventures and learn more about the wonderful world of crocodiles!