Absence makes the heart grow fonder? In a blink of an eye, 3 months passed by the CRC faster than a croc ambushes its prey! And once you get caught up with all the work we’ve done, I think you may feel a bit of our exhaustion:
March, April, and May were special months of outreach- from participating in Science Day events in Belize City, to celebrating International Forest Day in Punta Gorda, having our soft opening of our Next Gen Croc Tours, splitting the CRC team in ½ so we could participate in 2 Earth Day events on the same day, and guest speaking at Our Lady of Guadalupe High School in Belmopan, to traveling all the way up north for the Sarteneja Fishermen’s Fair, the CRC reached at least 1,000 Belizeans from various parts of the country to talk croc. Many of innate fear of crocs, and some of the fear stems from overhyped media articles or videos about crocodiles. We do our best to promote coexistence, squashing the false beliefs and misguided information about crocodiles. We don’t expect everyone to be croc lovers, but we give people the knowledge to learn the Do’s and Don’ts living with crocodiles so hopefully that fear turns more into a healthy respect for the animal.
March and April were also the months we kicked off and celebrated the new trash awareness campaign that is starting in Seine Bight by getting some local kids to create trash awareness signs to be put around the community. With the help and support of the Seine Bight Running Club, and the Seine Bight Village Council, CRC and the youth of Seine Bight put up some new signs to educate their community. Changing the behavior of a community takes time, but you have to start somewhere- one step at a time and we are moving forward in the right direction! Those that made signs got to go on a biodiversity excursion with the CRC one night. The students loved learning more about their local wildlife. Thank you again to The Phoenix Zoo for your financial support in our youth outreach programs!
And some things are just meant to be… after a plane ride from Belize City to Placencia, and speaking to the mother of an American Peace Corp volunteer who is living deep south amongst Maya villages, Dr. Marisa Tellez realized the children had lost their cultural respect for nature given stories of killing wildlife based on fear or for boredom. We had to do something! That something included getting a hold of Sharon Matola at The Belize Zoo and Sharon decided what needed to be done- several hours on a bus children from a few different Maya villages arrived at The Belize Zoo, leaving their village for the first time. All students had interactions with various animals, including a boa, tapir, and of course they all got to pet Rose the American croc! Seeing their eyes lite up was nothing but priceless, and all of those children have been touched forever in experiencing wildlife up close and personal like this. As always, Sharon is the knight in shiny armor, and another success story under her belt!
So let’s talk croc now…what’s going on in CRC rehab?
One of our rehab crocs Lydia was released back in the wild. She was receiving treatment as she had eye injuries that continued to build scar tissue and cover her eyes. Interestingly enough, this scar tissue is so thin she’s able to see through them! She’s become very self- sufficient packed on some pounds so we said, let her be free! We released Lydia in the Sapodilla Lagoon and she seemed to adjust to her new surroundings timidly as I dont think she ever thought she was going to be swimming along the coast again. Hoping this girl lives a long life in the area!
The next day after Lydia we welcomed White Walker to the CRC Rehab Facility. White Walker is a 8ft Morelet’s crocodile that came to us extremely sick. His home is New River near Orange Walk Town, where many crocs have illustrated signs of chronic heavy metal exposure. We are now naming any sick crocs, especially from New River White Walkers now given their skin is peeling and has more of a blueish-white tint. White Walker is now in a stress free, clean diet and water regimen and we were observing him daily. Unfortunately for White Walker, he passed away early May. Necropsy illustrated signs of chronic heavy metal exposure- his liver was pinkish and very porous and his kidneys were literally dissolved, almost nothing! We have been contacted by some NGOs and concerned community members along the New River to collaborate on a project to determine the cause of ill aquatic health, and to make a positive change for wildlife and communities.
Finally, the CRC adopted 2 more crocs, and we are quite honored that we have become the caretaker for the Foster Crocs. Richard and Carol Foster are icons in the conservation world of Belize, renowned for their award-winning documentaries that highlighted the wildlife and nature of Belize. Unfortunately, Richard’s life was cut too short this past year and the animals that he took care of, such as these crocs are now in need of a good home since Carol can no longer care for them. These 2 Morelet’s crocs (a male and a female, unnamed at the moment) came under the care of Richard over a decade ago as they became habituated through direct feeding by humans. Although these crocs have a good home at the moment, the CRC has begun introducing ourselves and very basic commands so they begin understanding our Croc School of Target Training. Given our current permanent enclosure situation, in addition to these crocs needing of a diet, we probably will not relocate them under permanent CRC care for another year. Until then, they are on a strict diet (fed ONLY fish every 3-4 weeks. The crocs are in an open and natural environment so they could predate on fish or any mammals that strolls into their pond) and will get basic training.
Oh… and I guess we shouldn’t forget how Mother’s Day weekend we rescued 2 sea turtles 2 days in a row! CRC is a local wildlife responder, and we are thankful for our supporters locally and internationally in providing the supplies needed for our Wildlife Triage Center. And given our part as a local wildlife response team, we ended up with an amazing experience going out to participate in manatee research with Jamal Galves, The Manatee Man. Five days in a row, CRC assisted in research and we can say research on crocs is MUCH easier then research on crocs!
And drums rolling please…. CRC is teaming up with Belize Audubon Society (BAS) in regards to creating a conservation and management program for the crocs in Crooked Tree. Twenty years ago 0 crocs were observed during the countrywide croc surveys. We saw at least 12crocs/km and we didn’t even survey the whole protected area! We are looking forward to further working with BAS and contributing to their goal of preserving the biodiversity in Crooked Tree. Next up… CRC initiated in the month of May the countrywide American crocodile Population Survey! We surveyed Barracouda Ponda near Sarteneja in Corozal. We saw a mix of American, Morelet’s, and hybrid crocs. Beautiful yellowish tone… and this is where we had a thought… is it possible within a clutch of hyrids, some young obtain the gene for high salinity whereas the other’s don’t? Does this cause an evolution of individuals tolerating high salinity in locations where mother’s nested by the coast? Hopefully our PhD student Helen Sung could answer that question!
So look out for the next ALoadOfCroc next month as we will be giving a summary of the month of historical conservation meetings taking place (and being led) by the CRC!!!
The CRC is a Belize based non-profit with a 501(c)3 sister company in the United States Collective ConSERVation. If you are interested in donating supplies or help finance our research, outreach or croc rehabilitation programs, or would like to volunteer, please head to our website http://www.crocodileresearchcoalition.org