CRC celebrates CROCtober 2019 with A Load of Croc!
This CROCtober at the Crocodile Research Coalition (CRC), we brought you 31 days of crocodile awareness in Belize! We joined other great partners in conservation efforts aimed at preserving Belize’s unique wildlife and ecosystems. We kicked off the month with a fun day of learning at Bernice Yorke pre-school. We love doing positive outreach with children at this impressionable age, and these toddlers surely did not disappoint. At ages 3-5 years old, the children were taught basic crocodile facts and learned some important lessons about respecting nature and wildlife. Our “crocodile diet game” was a huge hit, where kids were able to learn more about the foods that crocodiles prefer eating, and some of the harmful effects of plastic pollution to a crocodile’s diet.
The outreach didn’t stop there as CROCtober we usually put our headlamps aside to increase our educational outreach efforts. We primarily target schools as the CRC recognizes the importance of youth as environmental stewards and advocates, and we
love sparking their interest to start building a foundation toward participation in conservation action. Besides Bernice Yorke, we visited St. John’s Primary School in Placencia, educating students about the importance of crocodiles in aquatic ecosystems, and to delve further into concepts of ecological balance. Finally, we were excited to join TIDE Conservation Festival 2019 in Punta Gorda not only to talk croc, but also to join TIDE and other environmental NGOs who are working in Belize to provide solutions to reduce and phase out single-use plastics in Belize. The theme for this year’s festival was “Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution”. Our booth featured information on the effects of plastic pollution to biodiversity, educational games about the importance of mangroves for climate resilience in riparian habitats, our famous “crocodile diet game”, helpful materials to assist individuals and families in implementing more environmentally sustainable practices, and giveaways such as reusable bags and bottles to help reduce the use of single use plastics.
Our next event let the adults in on the fun with our first ever “CROCtoberFest” co-sponsored by Hobbs Brewery and The Flying Pig! On October 11th, we joined other zoos from around the world in putting our own educational spin on one of the most widely adopted beer festivals in the world, OktoberFest. Our CRC staff and volunteers were present to speak with visitors about our ongoing work in Belize, the importance of crocodiles, and how the community can get involved, sinking their teeth into conservation. In addition to all the tasty croc facts we were serving, visitors were able to enjoy discounted Hobbs beers and grilled treats, and had the opportunity to join our silent auction and raffle. Our winners from the event left with prizes like a trip to Ranguana Caye, a selection of Belizean rums and wine, a fantastic dinner at Turtle Inn, and of course, a chance to join CRC on one of our Nocturnal Eyeshine Surveys where they get to be citizen scientists for a night! The proceeds from this event went directly toward ongoing funding needed for our new facility being built on a newly designated protected area on the western side of the Placencia Lagoon. This will be the new base of all our CRC activities, and will include an environmental science education centre that will be open to the public, a wildlife rehabilitation and veterinary clinic, and field research station to host all our interns, volunteers and visiting researchers.
And how about some crocin’ fun for the whole family! We definitely did not forget that CROCtober is “spooky season”, so we made sure to participate in The Belize Zoo’s “Boo at the Zoo” event. This is an excellent, annual family event where families can celebrate Halloween at “the best little zoo in the world”. We were there with croc costumes and Dwayne “The Croc” Johnson that made for excellent photo ops! Kids got creative with designing and coloring their own crocodile masks and visiting our face painting corner. After learning about some fun crocodile facts, families were able to tour the zoo and get a chance to see Belize’s most famous croc ambassadors, Rose, Brutus and Nelson!
Let’s save the Hicaktee!!
CRC is happy to assist our conservation partners in spreading the word about all the magnificent wildlife in Belize, so besides celebrating CROCtober, CRC joined our friends from BFREE in celebrating Hicatee Awareness Month!
The Central American River Turtle known in Belize as the Hicaktee is the only critically endangered turtle in Belize and may be the most endangered turtle in the world. The Hicatee is the lone surviving representative in a family of turtles dating back to the age of the dinosaurs. Hicatees are found in Northern Guatemala, Southern Mexico and Belize. The Hickatee turtle is a very important part of our history and especially our culture! However, the Hicatee is disappearing because people are LITERALLY eating them into extinction. If we truly care about the Hicatee and wish to have it around for years to come then we will do our very best to protect it! BFREE and our partners have created Hicatee Awareness Month to raise awareness of this turtle in order to save it from extinction. BFREE is currently working on a petition to get the Hicatee to become the national reptile of Belize!
CRC gets crocin’ in Ireland and England!
Are there crocs in Europe? Not in the current few million of years, but today you can find a large network of crocodilian enthusiasts, biologists, researchers and zoos throughout Europe that assist the conservation of these scaly keystone predators throughout the world, coming together 1/year to discuss projects and new discoveries in the conservation, management, research and educational outreach. This year at the European Crocodile Networking Meeting in Kilkenny, Ireland, Dr. Marisa Tellez, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Crocodile Research Coalition based here in Placencia was invited to provide a presentation on a current CRC project (which was about the pollution issue on New River affecting crocodiles- see next month’s issue for details), and lead a workshop on field methodology and educational outreach for 70 participants from 18 different countries. Dr. Tellez was interviewed by various Irish national newspapers and TV new stations, discussing the importance of this meeting for international crocodile conservation and the conservation of biodiversity in general. After the meeting, Dr. Tellez was invited to give a presentation at Chester Zoo, Chester, United Kingdom to zoo keepers and interns, and members of the International Union for Conservation and Nature (IUCN) about the the history of crocodile conservation and management in Belize, and the various projects conducted by the CRC (as you know, we aren’t just about crocs!). We are happy to say CRC has solidified some European support for our work, in which we are hoping furthers our conservation efforts of the Placencia Lagoon.