“This month’s blog is written by CRC intern Greg who spent 6 months interning with the CRC, assisting the CRC in our nesting ecology project of crocodiles in Belize.“
My internship with the CRC ended July 31, after 6 months conducting research with Marisa and her team. From Sarteneja to Punta Gorda and from San Pedro to San Ignacio, I went all over the country working to promote crocodile conservation and awareness as well as collecting data for my project. As I said in my previous posts, my research focused on nesting ecology and behaviour. To study those, my stay in Belize was divided into several phases. The first one was to plan my research, write the methodology I was going to use, contact the people I was going to work with and organise everything to make data collection as efficient as possible. When that was done, the field work started. With Marisa, Miriam and other intern’s help, I looked for crocodile nests. We recorded the location of the nest, the species of the female crocodile when we could as well as other data about the nest environment and type. Stann Creek and Toledo are the districts that we explored most. A total of 9 nests were found but because of experimental conditions I was only able to really study 3 of those. I placed camera traps on these three nest to be able to observe the female when I was not there. Several thousands of videos and pictures were recorded during the two months I spent camera trapping. The next step was then to analyse those videos and transfer the data on computer sheets that I could then use to run statistical analysis. I am now back in France, in my home town and working on these analysis to understand what these recordings tell us about the crocodiles behaviour and ecology.
My goals when I came to Belize were to learn more about crocodilians, about research on these animals and to discover a new country and it’s culture. I have been able to do that and much more. This stay has been a great experience during which I was able to learn about myself, progress in many ways in a lot of different areas, discover further the world I wanted to work in and get a better understanding of what I needed to do to become a researcher in the future. This learning did not always come easily and I had to question myself and change my methods many times to adapt but I now know that it is a necessary quality that any field researcher must have. I was also able to discover work in the field, what it takes, how strenuous and demanding it can be but how rewarding it also always is.
For a week in May I also had the amazing opportunity to meet with some of the greatest croc researchers in the world during the 28th edition of the Crocodile Specialist Group meeting in Santa Fe, Argentina. For a week, it was all about crocodilians and friends. Watching all the researcher’s presentations and talking with them afterwards, I discovered and learned a lot, got a better understanding of the work that’s currently being done all over the world to protect these great animals and what it takes to be a croc scientist. I also met great people who I can wait to work with in the future. Last but not least, my internship with the CRC internship confirmed my passion for animal behaviour and my particular interest for crocodilians. I was also able during my stay to discover Belize and all it has to offer. The Mayan temples, the natural reserve, the reef and the mix of cultures are so many things that I was amazed to discover and will remember for a long time. But one thing that really stunned me in Belize is the people. Through my work with the CRC I got to travel a lot across the country and meet folks from all backgrounds and origins. Almost always receptive, kind and cheerful, I enjoyed the company of the Belizean I got to meet very much and even though not everyone was like that, I general really appreciated talking and spending time with locals.
This time and exchanges are moreover crucial for the CRC’s work. As Marisa always says, “conservation is not about wildlife, it’s about people”. Trying to make people and animals live together implies understanding animals but also understanding humans. Human-wildlife relations is therfore a key part of the work Marisa and her team do. Their holistic approach of crocodile conservation, their comprehensive management of human-crocodile interactions and their devotion to their work has led them to become The reference in Belize, both for people and for the government, who quickly perceived how invested the CRC was to making things work in Belize. Not satisfied with doing a hard job well, they strive to do it better and always make the extra-effort for people and for wildlife. Working with them, I had to give myself 200% to step-up to the challenge but it resulted in learning a lot and all in all a great experience.
I have not been able to thank all of the people I worked with during this six months so I use this opportunity to thank all of you who have offered me their time and effort and made this project possible. I’d also like to thank all the great people I met and that made this stay in Belize a wonderful experience.